HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – In a few years, astronauts will return to the moon for the first time in decades. And NASA is asking some bright minds to build space travelers places to live on the moon and on Mars.
And that doesn’t mean sending up a stack of lumber and a bucket of nails. On Wednesday evening, four men and women were invited to a presentation in Huntsville to show how they’d build the new habitats.
“Becoming part of a spacefaring civilization is something we want to be a part of,” Michael Bentley with AI SpaceFactory said.
Bentley was one of four team leads chosen to give a pitch in Huntsville at the Space and Rocket Center. His team received $500,000 for their winning proposal, nicknamed MARSHA, short for Mars Habitat.
“You want an efficient structure that uses as little material as possible. A cylinder is really good for that,” Bentley said.
Four proposals were chosen among 60 teams at a competition in Illinois, challenging scientists to come up with ways to build future living quarters on the moon and Mars.
The idea behind the missions is that the equipment and 3D printer would arrive ahead of time and get to work building the habitats, ideally finishing them by the time the astronauts arrive.
With the four presentations, they used a variety of materials to build the habitats, including a polymer base, which could be a plant material. Another showcased concrete and glass. Another included regolith, which is the layer of rocks sand and dirt you’d find on the surface of the moon and Mars.
“There’s no risk when you have no boots on the ground, when you have no astronauts there,” Melodie Yashar Search Plus Space Exploration said. “The habitat can take as long as it needs to construct.”
The proposals were ordered as part of NASA’s Centennial Challenges.
“We’re shifting our focus from Mars habitats to lunar work,” Yashar said.
So far, NASA has awarded just over $2 million to the teams. Bentley says his team is finishing an earthly model of MARSHA, known as TERA along the Hudson River where people can spend a night.
So far, NASA leaders say they aren’t ready to include a 3D printer as part of the upcoming Artemis moon missions.