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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is encouraging 3-D print construction of habitats for deep space exploration including a journey to Mars.

The space agency is cooperating with National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, known as America Makes, in a new $2.25 million competition to design and build a 3-D habitat.

The multi-phase 3-D Printed Habitat Challenge is part of NASA’s Centennial Challenges program, which is working to advance additive construction technology needed to create sustainable housing solutions for Earth and beyond.

The first phase of the competition runs through September 27 and is a design competition that requires participants to develop state-of-the art architectural concepts that take advantage of the unique capabilities that 3-D printing offers. The top 30 submissions will be judged and a prize purse of $50,000 will be awarded at the 2015 World Maker Faire in New York.

The second phase of the competition is divided into two levels. The Structural Member Competition (Level 1) focuses on the fabrication technologies needed to manufacture structural components from a combination of indigenous materials and recyclables, or indigenous materials alone. The On-Site Habitat Competition (Level 2) challenges competitors to fabricate full-scale habitats using indigenous materials or indigenous materials combined with recyclables. Both levels are open for registration September 26, and each carries a $1.1 million prize.

Winning concepts and products will help NASA build the technical expertise to send habitat-manufacturing machines to distant destinations, such as Mars, to build shelters for the human explorers who follow. On Earth, these capabilities may be used one day to construct affordable housing in remote locations with limited access to conventional building materials.

America Makes is a public/private partnership of organizations focused on accelerating the capabilities and adoption of additive manufacturing technology.

The Centennial Challenges Program is managed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama for the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C.

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