Mars Dune Alpha Habitat 3D printed by ICON for NASA »3dpbm

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American construction 3D printing company ICON was awarded a subcontract from NASA to deliver a 3D printed habitat, known as Mars Dune Alpha, to NASA’s Johnson Space Center. As part of NASA’s Analogue Exploration of Crew Health and Performance (CHAPEA), ICON’s next-generation Vulcan construction system will complement a 1,700-square-foot structure, designed by the firm of BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group architecture, which will simulate a realistic Martian habitat to withstand long-lasting, exploration-class space missions.

CHAPEA, is a sequence of three one-year Mars surface mission simulations at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. The analog missions will provide valuable insight and insight to assess NASA’s space food system, as well as physical and behavioral health and performance outcomes for future space missions. NASA will use research from the Mars Dune Alpha simulations to inform discussions about risks and resources to support the health and performance of crews for future missions to Mars when astronauts live and work on the Red Planet for extended periods of time. .

Future space exploration habitats have the potential to be 3D printed with additive building technology to eliminate the need to throw large amounts of building materials on multiple flights, which would be prohibitive.

“This is the highest fidelity simulated habitat ever built by humans,” said Jason Ballard, co-founder and CEO of ICON. “Mars Dune Alpha is intended to serve a very specific purpose: to prepare humans for living on another planet. We wanted to develop the most faithful analog possible to help humanity’s dream expand into the stars. Habitat 3D printing further illustrated to us that construction scale 3D printing is an essential part of humanity’s toolkit on Earth and to go to the Moon and Mars for stay there. “

Life in Mars Dune Alpha will be like the expected experience for those who live in a future habitat on the surface of Mars. Designed by BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group, the innovative structure layout is organized in a gradient of privacy. Four private crew quarters will be located at one end of the habitat; Dedicated workstations, medical stations, and agribusiness stations are located at the other end, with shared living spaces located in between. Variable ceiling heights, segmented vertically by an arched hull structure, accentuate the unique experience of each area to avoid spatial monotony and crew member fatigue. A mix of stationary and movable furniture will allow crew members to rearrange the habitat according to their daily needs, as will customizable lighting, temperature and sound control – helping to regulate daily routine, the circadian rhythm and the general well-being of the crew.

“Together with NASA and ICON, we are studying what humanity’s home on another planet will entail from the human experience,” said Bjarke Ingels, Founder and Creative Director, BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group. “The data obtained from this habitat research will directly inform NASA’s standards for long-duration exploration missions and, as such, potentially lay the groundwork for a new Martian vernacular. Mars Dune Alpha will take us one step further to become a multiplanetary species. “


Mars Dune Alpha

Ballard continued, “Bjarke Ingels and the team at BIG are incredible thought leaders in the field of architecture. It was important to have a partner who believed in this transformative role of the future of construction and who could help us imagine new pioneering frontiers, both material, technological and environmental.

Today, NASA has started recruiting for the long-term analog study of the Mars mission inside the 3D printed habitat. Applications to participate as a crew are being accepted until mid-September 2021 for the one-year analog mission which begins in fall 2022.

ICON also received funding from NASA and launched “Project Olympus” to begin research and development of a space construction system to support future exploration of the Moon. Under a government Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract, the “Olympus Project” brought ICON and BIG together again to imagine humanity’s first home on another world.


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