It looks like we might be booking tickets to Mars sooner than expected, and it's all thanks to 3D printing. Foster+Partners unveiled a compact 93-square-meter habitat that can be 3d printed by three kinds of semi-autonomous robots. First the robots would parachute to the surface of the planet and dig a crater. Next they would build layered walls from regolith (loose soil and rocks found on the surface of Mars), fusing the material in place with microwaves.
The British architecture firm worked with industrial and academic partners under the collective name GAMMA and designed the project for the NASA‘s 3D Printed Habitat Challenge. According to the team, the project could be delivered in two phases with minimal human input before the arrival of the four astronauts who would inhabit the structures.
Three kinds of robots would be used in the construction of the habitat. The larger “Diggers” would dig a 1.5-meter deep crater. Medium-sized “Transporters” would transport the excavated regolith and place it layer by layer over the inflatable modules in the crater be to form the core of the settlement. Finally, “Melters” would fuse the loose building material around the modules using microwaves and the same principles involved in 3D-printing. The resulting permanent shield is meant to protect against radiation and extreme temperatures.
“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,” said the firm.