Last week, NASA announced the top 30 finalists for their 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge.
The contest is meant to encourage innovation in the area of 3D-printing and to develop a shelter on Mars using local materials, such as Martian soil, or recycled materials from spacecraft.
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There are several cool designs, but one team from France either didn't submit their design on time or weren't invited. (Inhabitat and Fabulous both claim that only American teams were allowed to apply, but I found no mention of that in the rules.)
Nonetheless, the Sfero Bubble House design from Fabulous is compelling. (They named it Sfero by combining the words "Sphere," "Iron" and "Water.")
Construction of the habitat would be begin with a long pole that would drill into the ground and from which two robotic arms would extend. One arm would suck up and sort material from the surface, while the other one would use the material to construct a dome overhead.
Printed from Martian soil, the home is partially buried underground so that only the top floor is on the surface. In this space, the astronauts could maintain an indoor garden and workspace. The lower floors would be reserved for sleeping, with all floors connected by a spiral staircase.
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The structure's exterior walls would be made of two shells sandwiching water melted from permafrost, which would serve as a radiation barrier.
The team recommends building the structure in the crater Gale, which is known to contain large deposits of iron.