NASA's Mars Habitat Challenge takes a look at life on the Red Planet

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By Jaclyn Jeffrey-Wilensky

NASA has crowned three design teams as finalists in its ongoing competition to design 3D printed habitats for Mars, and gives Earthmen a glimpse of what it might look like to live in another world.

The goal of the competition was "to create housing solutions for our explorers on the Moon, Mars or beyond," said Monsi Roman, manager of NASA's Centennial Challenges Program at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. in an email

The $ 100,000 cash prize was shared by SEArch + / Apis Cor of New York City; Zopherus of Rogers, Arkansas; and the Mars Incubator based in New Haven, Connecticut.

The competition required teams to design habitats that could withstand intense radiation, extreme temperature changes and the thin atmosphere on Mars. And the habitats had to be designed so that they could be built through 3D printing, which converts the digital planes into structures by placing successive layers of plastic or other materials, in this case, locally collected rocks, as well as garbage generated by the astronauts

A 3D printer could be sent to Mars to build a habitat before the astronauts arrive to land, which means that the astronauts would have a place to live as soon as they arrived on the planet. If the habitat was damaged, astronauts or controllers on Earth could instruct the printer to quickly fabricate the required replacement part.

The first finalist, SEArch + / Apis Cor (seen at the top) opted for tall structures with gently sloping sides and heavy roofs. The outer walls made of the rock of Mars, known as regolith, help protect against radiation, as do the specially angled projections on the windows. The bright interior spaces (crew rooms, laboratory space and kitchen) are connected independently to life support systems to keep astronauts safe in case of emergency. And a vertical garden fills the inner walls of the habitat with vegetation.

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