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How AI Spacefactory Plans to Build Homes on Mars



Someday, we’re going to have humans on Mars. At this point, it’s almost inevitable. That’s why innovative companies are coming up with the amazing technology we’re going to need in order to survive. One very important consideration is shelter. How are we going to ensure we have somewhere to get out of the elements when there’s really nothing on Mars to use as building material? Enter MARSHA. When NASA sent out a challenge to build 3D printed habitats, AI Spacefactory answered the call (and won the contest). Here’s how MARSHA works.



1. The only thing you need to send to Mars to build MARSHA is the 3D printer itself.
3D printing has been a game changer in many industries. AI Spacefactory’s 3D printer not only creates MARSHA layer by layer, it can also install windows and skylights. But since raw materials are far too expensive to send all the way to the red planet, what will the printer use?

2. MARSHA utilizes rocks found on Mars along with plants that can be grown there.
That’s right, future Mars homes will be built out of the planet’s materials themselves. The design uses a composite made from basalt (which is found on Mars) and biopolymer (obtained from plants that can be grown on Mars). This composite is fully recyclable and, most remarkably, it is stronger than concrete.



3. The design takes into account everything humans need to live safely and comfortably on Mars.
Mars comes with its own unique environment that our homes will have to stand up to. MARSHA has an egg-shaped design that not only offers inhabitants a gorgeous view, it also makes the structure easier to build and reduces mechanical stress. It also has what they call a dual shell design, which protects against the temperatures on Mars that most definitely are not human friendly. Last but not least, the materials used in the walls create a shield that protects against cosmic radiation, which is of particular concern on Mars given the thin atmosphere.

If you think MARSHA sounds like the ideal home, check out AI Spacefactory’s latest project, TERA.
 
Feb 1, 2020
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. . . . . . . . . and does the 3D printer take care of everything needed for the plant growth for the polymer?

Cat
Nope.
The plants have to be grown in a greenhouse at pressure and with all the necessary minerals, water and so forth. So we're back to the problems of paraterraforming the planet.
it's like in the Army Procurement Division. 'Everything takes longer and costs more.'
 
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MarcUK001

Themarcjohnstone
May 31, 2020
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In my opinion, any base on Mars will be built using prefabricated structures built on earth and then shipped to Mars. Small 3D printers and robots will be sent with the first missions to support it. I can`t see 3D Printers building specific habitation structure in the first few years as we will have to prove the concept on the planet in. I can see large 3D printers being used to build building foundations or perimeter walls.
 
Feb 1, 2020
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In my opinion, any base on Mars will be built using prefabricated structures built on earth and then shipped to Mars. Small 3D printers and robots will be sent with the first missions to support it. I can`t see 3D Printers building specific habitation structure in the first few years as we will have to prove the concept on the planet in. I can see large 3D printers being used to build building foundations or perimeter walls.
The first generation habitat structures will be buit on Earth then shipped to Mars. That will stop soon however.

The reason is simple. It' costs around two million per ton to ship anything off Earth. It's around twice that to Mars. Even prefabs that don't need to hold in air or protect against a 100 Degree C temperature difference weight tons. So if there is any way to avoid having to live in a ten million dollar camper trailor, take it!

The house in the Article is not a terribly user friendly design, but it is cheap, using commonly available materials and only a few tons of supplies and tools to build a structure that could be used as a base generating enough of the materials needed to build it to construct another every two years or so. It's actually only a single element in a planned village.

The goal for any colony needs to be to pay off the cost of establishing the colony.

If you can do it fast, you have the boom of an old mining town, that when the mine plays out, leads to the bust that is the source of the Western 'Ghost Towns'.

If you have it slow, then you have the sorts of poor towns and villages that dot the current Caribbean and South Pacific. Those places though are getting richer slowly.

Mars will be competing with the Moon which is much closer to Earth. The Moon can ship in days what Mars can in years.
So Mars will grow more slowly. But Mars will ultimately grow to be larger than the Moon will. Mars is bigger after all.

The Moon will never be economically independant of the Earth or another planet. Mars may.
 

MarcUK001

Themarcjohnstone
May 31, 2020
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Hi, i totally with agree with you. The long term goal, would be to make any Mars base self sufficient. Once there initial on-planet minerals surveys are complete, im sure they can find the right minerals to make the correct building products to feed there onsite 3D printers and robot construction teams.

But i also think Artemis and Mars are two different programs. But is launching a mission from lunar orbit to Mars actually practical. Its makes sense to build a ship in earth orbit and launch it from earth orbit in the early stage and use that as solar system people/cargo shuttle.

Artemis is laying the foundation for commercial moon mining. Fusion power is coming, it needs helium-3 as a fuel. Its been estimated that there are around 1,100,000 metric tonnes of helium-3 on the surface of the Moon down to a depth of a few meters. Basing the lunar landers in orbit, allows them to cover the whole moon surface. H3 could also fuel any deep space missions.
 
Mar 19, 2020
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. . . . . . . . . and does the 3D printer take care of everything needed for the plant growth for the polymer?

Cat
One assumes that the 3-D printer also makes greenhouses? Clearly it would have to carry some "glue" to kick start the building. Are they going to have banks and mortgage companies on Mars, or do you buy them on earth, like swamp land in Florida, site unseen?

And does the 3-D printer repair itself, or just print out another 3-D printer? Seems like levels of complexity that are not likely to come together. Perhaps Occam's razor plays a role in this too......

Another time for Cat to come to the rescue!!
 
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Catastrophe

"There never was a good war, or a bad peace."
One assumes that the 3-D printer also makes greenhouses? Clearly it would have to carry some "glue" to kick start the building. Are they going to have banks and mortgage companies on Mars, or do you buy them on earth, like swamp land in Florida, site unseen?

And does the 3-D printer repair itself, or just print out another 3-D printer? Seems like levels of complexity that are not likely to come together. Perhaps Occam's razor plays a role in this too......

Another time for Cat to come to the rescue!!
I can just about get my head around 3-D printers, although my appetite for them is tooth-grindingly limited to extreme hunger ;) but I do have difficulty in imagining how the raw materials arrive ready for processing. And, yes, of course, they are prepared by . . . . . . . . . why didn't I guess? 3-D printers? Silly of me not to realise!

Don't worry about mortgages and stuff - just shovel in haematite conveyed by your 3-D printed wheelbarrow and iron ten £ sterling (or the currency of your choice) will pop out the other end - exhaust from the 3-DP will replenish oxygen for the atmosphere.

Just to boost the Loony economy you can sell plots bearing the customer's name, just visible via the Hubble or JWST and relayed to their TV set. About A4 size should be good enough.
 
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. . . But is launching a mission from lunar orbit to Mars actually practical?
You launch from the location with the lowest escape velocity requirement where you can refuel your craft. it's really all in the Total Delta V requirements.

From Low Earth Orbit, Delta V to the Moon is lower than Delta V from LEO to Mars. The Delta V from LEO to Lunar Oribt then to Mars is however larger than from LEO to Mars.

Using the Moon only makes sense if you can refuel there.
 
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. . . And does the 3-D printer repair itself, or just print out another 3-D printer?......

Another time for Cat to come to the rescue!!
The 3D printer in the article has a nozzle optimized for water with a plant based polymer to stiffen it.

3D printing is a technology, not a single machine. But like the technologies of aircraft, many different tools are possible. Just as a wright flyer is rather different than an Apache attack Helicopter or a Stealth Bomber, there are many different 3D printers.

The typical home 3D printers use thermoplastics that melt under moderate heat. The print heads are basically little hot glue gun tips.

Many of the industrial kinds use ceramics that melt steel or other metals. Some use lasers or electricity to weld metallic or ceramic dust.

Power usages also vary widely.

I've even seen 3D printers that print using canned cheese as a print material.

So yes, there are some 3D printers can be used to make other 3D printers, but the printers for these ice houses can't make anything that isn't made of ice.

Like it is in so many things, what you bring determines what you can make with it.

Over the past couple of decades, the machines needed to make the machines to make anything have shrunk from a small warehouse in the 1990's to a big garage today. A real colony will need the entire garage and will probably make the warehouse with time. But not all the tools need to be in the first shipment.
 

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