NASA (US National Aeronautics and Space Administration) Centennial Challenges is a program that offers prizes for competitions to solve problems “of interest to NASA and the nation.” To receive diverse ideas, the competition is open to inventors and innovators, including small businesses, student groups and individuals. The objectives of the program are:
- Innovation – Drive progress in aerospace technology through competition and cooperation.
- Opportunity – Leverage technology from the challenges to advance NASA missions.
- Communication – Provide a forum for public outreach.
Winners were recently announced for the first phase of their 3D Printed Habitat Challenge Design Competition. The objective was to develop innovative architectural concepts that incorporated 3D printing capabilities. To reach that end, participants designed and built a 3D printed habitat for use on Mars.
From the 165 submissions, the top three winners were announced on September 27, 2015. Judging was based on criteria including:
- Architectural concept
- Design approach
- Mars site selection
- How easily the concept could be 3D printed
1st Place – Team SEArch/Clouds Architecture Office
Ice House was designed by Team SEArch/Clouds Architecture Office. This habitat’s location would be the northern latitudes of Mars where there is water and lower temperatures. Their 3D printing technique uses the physics of water and its phase transition to create a “multi-layered pressurized radiation shell of ice that encloses a lander habitat and gardens within.”
2nd Place and People’s Choice Award – Team GAMMA
Team GAMMA accounts for uncertainty and unknowns with their design. It includes navigation to find suitable areas to build the habitat that offers flexible and interchangeable design. Their 3D printing element is a “semi-autonomous multi-robot regolith (the loose dust, soil and rock covering solid rock) additive manufacturing system” to create a protective shield around the inflatable habitat.
3rd Place – LavaHive
Team LavaHive offers a “lava-casting” approach as their 3D printing innovation. This technique sinters (compressing powdered materials into a solid mass through the use of heat) the Mars regolith to build hall-like connectors between inflatable modules that make up the habitat and sub-habitats. The use of lava in this technique creates a stronger, higher density material that is also a better sealant.
Their team also recycles spacecraft components in the construction, including using the back shell of the Entry, Descend and Landing (EDL) system as the habitat roof. They also use materials that would normally be tossed out in their building.
These teams each showed creativity and innovation in building designs that NASA can incorporate and build upon. If you’d like to be just as creative, all it takes is practice. Creativity isn’t a trait that only some people have. It’s a skill that can be improved. Download The Creativity Handbook for 3D Professionals for tips and tricks to build your capabilities.
Image Source: NASA