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NASA Awards Prizes in Phase 2 of its 3D Printed Habitat Challenge

According to a new article by Space, NASA has announced the winners for Phase 2: Level 1 Compression Test Competition in its 3D Printed Habitat Challenge.

The 3D Printed Habitat Challenge is a partnership between NASA’s Centennial Challenges Program and Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, which aims “to foster the development of technologies to manufacture a habitat using local indigenous materials with, or without, recyclable materials.”

“When humanity eventually becomes an interplanetary species, settling on Mars and beyond, people will need to use the resources that are locally available as building material for habitats…it would be expensive and unsuitable to ship building materials all the way from Earth.”  This is where the wonders of 3D printing come in.  “By setting up competitions, NASA hopes to attract ‘citizen inventors’ from diverse backgrounds to develop 3D printing technologies for space exploration.”

The 3D Printed Habitat Challenge’s first Phase finished back in 2015.  “The Phase 2 ‘Structural Member Competition’ is now underway, with a total prize purse of $1.1 million; it focuses on material technologies that will be needed to build structural components.”  For Phase 2’s first level, NASA has just recently announced the winners.  They “are Foster + Partners | Branch Technology of Chattanooga, Tennessee (awarded $85,930), and the University of Alaska, Fairbanks (awarded $14,070).”

“Phase 2 comprises three subcompetitions, the first of which was this ‘Compression Test Competition.’  For this competition, teams were asked to develop 3D printable materials and to 3D print a truncated cone and a cylinder.  Next, the teams will be tasked with 3D printing a beam that could be used in habitat construction as part of the ‘Phase 2: Level 2 Beam Member Competition.’”

As NASA’s Centennial Challenges Program Manager Monsi Roman concludes: “seeing tangible, 3D printed objects for this phase makes the goals of this challenge more conceivable than ever.  This is the first step toward building an entire habitat structure, and the potential to use this technology to aid human exploration to new worlds is thrilling.”

Image and Quotes Courtesy of NASA and Space

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