With the challenge only open to American companies, French design firm Fabulous still went ahead and submitted their own competitive concept.
Intriguingly, their idea is for a long, pole-like robot to begin burrowing itself into Mars’ surface – deep enough where it would then extract water from the soil and access an abundant source of raw materials that would be used in the construction of the habitat hulls.
This ‘robotic mast’ would also have two autonomous arms to aid in the construction process. One arm would be responsible for harvesting iron from the soil, with the second containing a metal 3D printer that would convert the raw iron into a metal powder, which would then be melted together using a high-powered laser.
The printer would begin by using the iron to build a solid foundation for the habitat, and then it would fabricate the inner and outer hulls.
Both of the hulls would be spherical in shape, using a honeycomb structure internally to maximize strength and resistance to protect against the pressure differentials between the livable atmosphere inside of Sfero and the atmosphere of Mars itself.
With 1.5% to 3.5% of Mars’ water stored in permafrost deep within the soil, condensation methods can easily liquify it for extraction. Not only is water essential for supporting human life, but it can also be used to water plants for the production of food and oxygen, also acting as an insulator for the habitat itself.
The water would be stored within a pocket between the two iron hulls of the Sfero pod. Not only is this convienent for storage, but it’s also an excellent protective barrier between humans and the deadly solar raditation that can’t be screened out by Mars’ thinning atmosphere. Psychologically, Fabulous also says that it can be a nice reminder of Earth.
The Sfero house would have multiple floors: the top, which would be used for an indoor garden and workspaces, and the lower floors, which would be used for the sleeping quarters. All floors would be connected using a single spiral staircase in the middle of the habitat.
Aside from the construction of the habitat itself, the robot 3D printer could also produce all the necessary furnishings, including chairs, beds, walls and floors.
It would also have the ability to create different internal structures for specialized purposes, such as research areas, living quarters, or domes that are specialized for growing plants for food and oxygen.
If a few dozen Sfero robots were to be deployed, it’s easy to see how an entire colony could theoretically be self-constructed on Mars without human interaction.
The design is also very flexible, allowing for Earth-based testing in areas where soil compositions resemble the surface of Mars, areas such as the Mojave Desert in California and volcanic areas in Hawaii.
Do you think that 3D printing is a pivotal step in creating a colony on Mars?
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