Architects, across the world, are coming up with incredibly-inventive Martian home designs, in response to NASA’s recently-held 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge. A few days back, we talked about the Sfero House concept, by French firm Fabulous, which proposes the use of robots to extract the Red Planet’s natural resources, in order to construct houses for humans. The engineers, at Foster + Partners, have developed a somewhat similar, yet equally innovative, version of Martian dwelling that could be 3D-printed by an army of specially-equipped semi-autonomous robots.
The $2.25 million competition, conducted by NASA in collaboration with America Makes, called for 3D-printed building designs, based on additive construction technology, which can in turn further the agency’s goals for deep space exploration and colonization of Mars. One of the top 30 finalists, Norman Foster’s design envisages a 93-sqraure-meter structure that could be built, by robots, using regolith, the loose soil covering Mars’ rocky surface. This would completely eliminate the cost of sending heavy building materials from the Earth.
According to the architects, the construction of the habitats would be carried out by three different types of automatons, parachuted individually onto the Martian surface. At first, colossal robots, called “diggers”, would carve a 1.5-meter-deep crater on the ground. The actual structure would be built, by “transporters”, through a process called Regolith Additive Construction (or RAC). Finally, the regolith would be fused onto the shelter’s framework using microwaves beamed by a smaller clan of robots, known as “melters”. Speaking about the project, the firm’s spokesperson said:
The proposal considers multiple aspects of the project from delivery and deployment to construction and operations. 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.
This approach of employing several robots, for the same task, means that the construction process would remain uninterrupted, even when one of the units malfunctions. The unique, multi-layered exterior, of the habitats, would actually protect the occupants from the severe solar radiation and high atmospheric temperature, typical of the Martian climate. Featuring a combination of private and communal spaces, on the inside, each of these modules would accommodate up to four astronauts.
To know more about the firm, head over to its official website.