The winner for NASA’s 3D-Printed Mars Habitat Challenge has finally been announced, and it was AI SpaceFactory that took the top spot. Over 60 teams participated in the competition, which began in 2015, and NASA has awarded a total of $2 million in prize money.
AI SpaceFactory Wins NASA Challenge
In a statement on May 5, NASA announced that AI SpaceFactory has won the 3D-Printed Mars Habitat Challenge after four days and 30 hours of head-to-head competition on the contest’s final stage. As a prize, AI SpaceFactory received $500,000, while the team in second place, Pennsylvania State University of University Park, received $200,000.
The final face-off happened from May 1 to May 4 at the Caterpillar's Edwards Demonstration & Learning Center, where the teams created a one-third scale of their design, which were then subjected to testing that evaluated the habitats for durability, strength, material mix, and leakage.
In the end, it was AI SpaceFactory that won the top prize with their Marsha design.
AI SpaceFactory’s Marsha Design
The winning team’s design was created with the important idea that habitats on Mars are not only meant to be shelter but are also meant to be machines that can keep its inhabitants alive. Furthermore, the team places significance on the habitat’s importance on the success of a Mars mission while also considering the mental and social health of those who will inhabit it.
As a result, the team designed a habitat that is rather different than the image of domes and instead designed the habitat to be a tall structure that would support both human habitation as well as the demands of a space mission.
“It’s light, and it’s strong, like an airplane. That’s going to be very important for these types of habitats,” said Lex Akers, the dean of the Bradley's Caterpillar College of Engineering and Technology, about the winning design.
That said, the team notes that while they developed the technology for Mars, it may also be used on Earth as a means to build using natural, biodegradable materials instead of concrete that is non-recyclable.
NASA’s challenge actually began back in 2015, with the multi-phase challenge to the competitors to utilize different additive manufacturing technologies, from the design to the actual physical construction.
“By teaming up with NASA and Caterpillar, we are proud to bring these teams together in an environment where they can innovate, create and challenge our vision of what's possible. Congratulations to both teams for their accomplishments,” said Akers.