NASA Opens Phase 3 Of $2 Million 3D-Printed Habitat Competition. NASA

A major concern in getting a rocket in space is the weight of the payload, with more force required to break through the iron-clad grip of Earth’s gravity with increasing payload.

Removing this constrain is essential for any mission that plans to set up a habitat on another planet or space body.

NASA seems to think that the answer lies in devising technologies that will facilitate creation of the habitat required by humans to live on Mars or the moon on-site.

The space organization's 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge, a Centennial Challenges competition, is looking for ways to establish ways to create things needed for space missions, in space itself.

They have launched a challenge to citizen inventors to help them figure out a way to do this. NASA and challenge partner Bradley University of Peoria, Illinois, announced the opening of Phase 3 of the competition for team registration.

“The ideas and technologies this competition has already produced are encouraging, and we are excited to see what this next phase will bring,” said Monsi Roman, program manager of NASA’s Centennial Challenges in a news release by NASA about the competition.

“The solutions we seek from our competitions are revolutionary, which by nature makes them extremely difficult. But this only fuels our teams to work harder to innovate and solve,” he added.

The competition aims at encouraging innovators to spur the development of new technology to manufacture a habitat using local indigenous materials found on Mars or on the moon.

The teams can use recyclable or non-recyclable materials. NASA’s vision is to have 3D printing machines that will be deployed to the moon, Mars or beyond to construct shelters for human habitation. The same machines could be used on earth. They can produce affordable housing wherever it is needed or where access to conventional building materials and skills are limited.

Bradley University President Gary Roberts said in the report, "Bradley prides itself on experiential learning and student engagement. This challenge isn’t something our students can learn about in a textbook or in a classroom. This is a forward-thinking concept coming to life, and they have a chance to see it firsthand. They will meet the people making it happen and learn about the ideas that are fueling innovation. This could change the way they imagine the future and push their creative limits."

The challenge has been divided into different phases. Phase 1 of the competition called on participants to develop state-of-the-art architectural concepts and was completed in 2015. Phase 2: Structural Member Competition focused on manufacturing structural components and was completed in August 2017.

The Phase 3: On-Site Habitat Competition looks to challenge competitors on their ability to fabricate sub-scale habitats using indigenous materials “with or without mission-generated recyclables, and offers a $2 million total prize purse. Phase 3 has five levels of competition. Interested teams may register through Feb. 15, 2018,” the report said. The full details, schedule and rules can be found here.

In addition to NASA, Bradley University has partnered with sponsors Caterpillar Inc., Bechtel and Brick & Mortar Ventures to run the competition.