A manned mission is planned for Mars but the possibility of remaining there for a longer time is already being explored by scientists. The 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge was launched by NASA back in 2015 in order to explore and develop artificial housing appropriate for the first generation of Mars residents. The list was narrowed to 5 contestants after realistic virtual models were evaluated by NASA.
18 teams participated in the project, judged by the use of custom-made software. According to one source, the software requires accurate data regarding technical details such as wall thickness, heating, pressure seal integrity and radiation shields, among other elements required in order to create a safe habitat. This means that the teams had to think about all the aspects of the project, and be sure that it is functional, not only good-looking.
The prize for this stage of the project was $100,000 split between the contending teams. Each project had a unique feature, such as moving 3-D printers, resource-gathering rovers, a habitat designed for maximum space use and others. The teams had to prove that the designs were feasible, and built a one-third scale version of the habitat.
Mars is a pretty hostile planet, and building habitable construction on the Red Planet will prove out to be a real challenge. A huge dust storm has recently covered the entire planet in dust, forcing the Opportunity rover to enter hibernation as it lacked the solar power needed to keep working. Coupled with the lack of liquid water, intense solar radiation and harsh winds Mars will place serious hinders even for the successful projects.
The current designs were well received by NASA and plans for the next stage of the competition have already started. With Boeing and SpaceX anticipating a Mars launch for 2020 it seems that the dream of conquering another planet may become real.