NASA JPL and Makerbot have announced the winners of their Thingiverse Mars Base challenge to design and 3D print a human habitat for the Red Planet.
Humans living on Mars is a fascinating concept. We already have Mars One looking to establish a Mars colony, and NASA planning manned missions to the Red Planet, with one objective being to assess the feasibility of living there; whether Mars has the resources necessary for human survival, and whether we have the technology to create what we need.
While, however, it's still a distant dream, that hasn't stopped people from thinking about how we might live if we get there. Recently, NASA and Makerbot held the Mars Base challenge: to design human habitation, using materials either found on Mars or brought from Earth, that could be 3D printed.
With 228 submissions on Thingiverse, the competition was fierce -- but the three top designs are in, with the first place winner receiving a MakerBot Replicator Desktop 3D printer and spools of MakerBot PLA filament going to second and third.
First place was awarded to Noah Hornberger, who designs 3D printed objects. His design, The Queen B (top image), is a two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment consisting of six-sided rooms laid out in a hex-based grid. It's also designed to shield against the cosmic radiation humans would be exposed to under the Mars atmosphere, using depleted uranium panels, as well as providing warmth using water piped through the walls, heated using a subterranean exothermic chemical reactor.
"This is quite a multifaceted challenge," Hornberger wrote. "I have tried to think through the theory of my design as much as possible and prove it with a printed model. I designed something that I would feel happy living in for a few years (at least)."
In second place is a more traditional building -- the Martian Pyramid by Thingiverse user Valcrow ofRedicubricks. Chosen for its stable triangular geometry, the building is designed around sustainability, housing a closed aquaponics system for growing food, using solar panels for power and built around a central reservoir for water storage.
The third place entry also took design cues from antiquity. The Mars Acropolis by project and design engineer Chris Starr is based on the Greek Acropolis, and is a three-tiered structure designed to be built from composite materials. Housed inside would be three greenhouses to serve as both a renewable food source and source of oxygen. In the lower level would be stored oxygen generators and supply tanks, while a water tower sits atop the structure, to be collected from water vapour in the Mars atmosphere.
"We really loved seeing how the designs in the Mars Base Challenge were often inspired by structures here on Earth that have withstood the passage of time and harsh weather elements," said MakerBot CEO Bre Pettis. "It was challenging to select just three winners from the 228 entries. We were happy to have the experts from JPL on board to help with the judging process, as they took this challenge very seriously. Overall, this was a very inspiring challenge."
While it's true that we won't be getting to Mars quite yet, if or when we do, it's possible we'll be living there in style.