Credit: Foster + Partners/New York

Credit: Foster + Partners/New York

 

The imaginative folks at Foster + Partners/New York noted today that they are amongst 30 finalists for the 3D Printed Habitat Challenge organized by America Makes and NASA.

This contest, previously reported by Inside Outer Space, is asking for ideas to develop a settlement on Mars constructed by an array of pre-programmed, semi-autonomous robots prior to the eventual arrival of Mars-landing crews.

Credit: Foster + Partners/New York

Credit: Foster + Partners/New York

 

 

Foster + Partners/New York envisions a robust 3D-printed dwelling for up to four astronauts constructed using regolith – the loose soil and rocks found on the surface of Mars.

Credit: Foster + Partners/New York

Credit: Foster + Partners/New York

Explains a Foster + Partners news release: “The compact 93 square meter habitat modules “combines spatial efficiency with human physiology and psychology, with overlapping private and communal spaces, finished with ‘soft’ materials and enhanced virtual environments, which help reduce the adverse effects of monotony, while creating positive living environment for the astronauts.”

Minimal human input

The proposal envisions the habitat delivered in two stages prior to the arrival of the astronauts.

Credit: Foster + Partners/New York

Credit: Foster + Partners/New York

First, the semi-autonomous robots select the site and dig a 5 foot (1.5 meters) deep crater, followed by a second delivery of the inflatable modules which sit within the crater to form the core of the settlement.

“Given the vast distance from the Earth and the ensuing communication delays, the deployment and construction is designed to take place with minimal human input, relying on rules and objectives rather than closely defined instructions. This makes the system more adaptive to change and unexpected challenges – a strong possibility for a mission of this scale,” the design company statement explains.

“Diggers,” “Transporters,” and “Melters”

Three different kinds of robots are parachuted to the surface of Mars, each performing a specialized task within the large-scale Regolith Additive Construction process.

Credit: Foster + Partners/New York

Credit: Foster + Partners/New York

The larger ‘Diggers’ create the crater by excavating the regolith, which the medium-sized ‘Transporters’ then move into position over the inflatable habitat modules layer by layer.

The loose Martian soil is then fused around the modules using microwaves – the same principles involved in 3D-printing – by several small ‘Melters’.

Credit: Foster + Partners/New York

Credit: Foster + Partners/New York

The fused regolith creates a permanent shield that protects the settlement from excessive radiation and extreme outside temperatures.

Credit: Foster + Partners/New York

Credit: Foster + Partners/New York

“The separation of tasks amongst the large number of robots, and the modularity of the habitat means a high level of redundancy is incorporated within the system – if one robot fails, or a single module is damaged, there are others that can fulfill its task, increasing the chances of a successful mission,” the designers conclude.

 

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