3D-Printing Lunar and Martian Habitats and the Potential Applications for Additive Construction
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In 2015, the NASA Centennial Challenges program launched the 3D-Printed Habitat (3DPH) competition to develop housing solutions for extended-duration missions on planetary surfaces using advanced additive construction technology. The challenge was executed in three phases with increasing complexities and requirements. The main goal of the competition was to use of planetary indigenous materials and mission recyclables as feedstock for large-scale, autonomous 3D printers to construct a habitat on the Moon or Mars. Phase 1 challenged teams to develop state-of-the-art architecture concepts that took advantage of unique capabilities offered by 3D-printing. In Phase 2, teams autonomously 3D-printed structural components using terrestrial/space-based materials and recyclables. Phase 3 tasked competitors to fabricate sub-scale habitats using indigenous materials with or without mission-generated recyclables and ended in a head-to-head competition. The developments from this challenge are applicable both to the fulfillment of NASA’s Moon to Mars mission and to the creation of affordable and sustainable housing solutions on Earth. This paper will summarize the results of the four-year challenge and provide an overview of team achievements as a result of the competition. Results from the competition include humanitarian and business opportunities created/negotiated and the development of 3D-printed housing solutions for people such those in need of shelter in Austin, Texas and 3D-printing houses at the United Nations habitat headquarters in Nairobi, Keyna. The Phase 3: Level 5 winner, AI. SpaceFactory, is currently 3D-printing an ecofriendly house in New York called Terra, a full-size habitat design for Mars and available on Earth.