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NASA Launch 3D Printing Challenge for Mars

It is perhaps inevitable that two of the most innovative technologies have finally come together, all in order to produce the world’s first living habitat in space. NASA is at the forefront of space exploration, and with a new project set to settle humans on Mars within the next decade; they are looking to other pioneering technologies to aid in this endeavour.

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3D printing has come a long way since early prototypes of mini-me figurines and chocolate bars with corporate branding, and to this end, NASA has decided to launch a competition to 3D print a Martian base, suitable for living quarters for the human settlers. And thanks to the entrepreneurial nature of 3D printing, this is one challenge that anyone can get involved in.

Mars is a hostile planet, and any living base must be able to sustain human life on a permanent basis. The habitats must also suit the residents from a psychological perspective, providing interesting details and wide expanses so that settlers do not feel trapped. The base will have to be sturdy, utilitarian, and NASA believes that at least parts of it could be 3D printed, for on site construction.

This is why they have launched the MakerBot Mars Base Challenge. To judge the best living quarters, a panel of experts from MakerBot and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, will be on hand to judge designs on aspects of their design. These will include the feasibility of production, creativity and printability.

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NASA are accepting submissions until June 12 and all entries must be uploaded to the Mars Base Challenge website Thingiverse.com, an open-source website for design ideas, with the hashtag #MakerBotMars.

Winners of the challenge will receive MakerBot products, with 1st-prize winner receiving a Replicator 2 Desktop 3D Printer. So far the site has received 72 entries.

The blurb on the competitions website states: “Taking Mars’ extreme cold, high radiation levels, lack of oxygen, and frequent dust storms into consideration, design a utilitarian Mars base that can withstand the elements and maybe even make you feel at home, despite being 140 million miles away from Earth, on average.”

Officials are looking in particular at creating living quarters using 3D printing out of the raw materials that are already available on the planet. There is also a plan to send the first 3D printer into space, called ‘3D Printing in Zero G Experiment’; this printer was built by the company Made in Space in order to see how feasible it is to 3D print spare parts or tools on the International Space Station.

NASA also want to further explore 3D printing food in outer space, and last year began running trials on producing 3D printing nutritious food that was able to sustain astronauts on long deep-space voyages.

To learn more about the MakerBot Mars Base Challenge, visit: thingiverse.com/challenges/Mars
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