SEArch, Clouds AO
If humans ever reach Mars, we may live in houses made of ice.
On September 27, the architects and designers from Team Space Exploration Architecture (SEArch) and Clouds Architecture Office (Clouds AO) were crowned the winners of NASA's 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge.
Their design, Ice House, relies on the power of water, which we now know exists on the red planet, to create a pressurized and habitable shell where human and plant life can thrive. It features a hydroponic greenhouse, "hollowed-out" ice rooms to give the illusion of space, and a safe area where astronauts can hang out without their suits. The ice shell protects against radiation and won't melt since Mars is about 67 degrees below zero.
"Ice House is born from the imperative to bring light and a connection to the outdoors into the vocabulary of Martian architecture," the designers explain in a project statement.
One of NASA's ongoing goals, says the team, is to adopt a method of exploration in which it "follows the water." Ice House was designed as an extension of that goal.
The team took home $50,000 for the first-place finish.
“The creativity and depth of the designs we’ve seen have impressed us,” said Centennial Challenges Program Manager Monsi Roman in a statement. “These teams were not only imaginative and artistic with their entries, but they also really took into account the life-dependent functionality our future space explorers will need in an off-Earth habitat.”
Up next are the remaining two phases of the competition (the Structural Member Competition and the On-Site Habitat Competition) which opened for registration on September 26. The first event tasks entrants with proving that their technologies to built a Mars habitat are feasible, while the latter puts their theories to the test in real-world builds here on Earth.
The purse for the upcoming competitions is $2.2 million, split between each phase. Winning designs (including the Ice House) will be considered for the space agency's mission to send astronauts to Mars by the 2030s.