Building On Mars

October 7, 2016

NASA, Bradley University, Caterpillar, Bechtel, and Brick and Mortar Ventures are partnering for the second phase of NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge. The competition, with $1.1 million in prize money, seeks innovative designs to build houses where future space explorers can live and work.

“Innovation, collaboration and experiential learning — three of Bradley University’s core values, are at the heart of the 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge with NASA and Caterpillar,” said Bradley University President Gary Roberts ‘70. “The challenge provides an unparalleled opportunity for students and faculty to network, create relationships with mentors and explore new ideas as they partner in creating solutions for our world and beyond.”

Phase 2 focuses on the material technologies needed to manufacture structural components from a combination of indigenous materials and recyclables, or indigenous materials alone. NASA may use these technologies to construct shelters for future human explorers to Mars. On Earth, these same capabilities could also be used to produce affordable housing wherever it is needed or where access to conventional building materials and skills is limited.

The competition will bring teams to Caterpillar’s proving grounds in Edwards to test designs in August 2017.

“Shelter is an obvious necessity as we prepare to explore worlds beyond our home planet, but space and weight aboard our vehicles are precious, and taken by the many other resources we will need for survival,” said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. “That’s why we are seeking the technology to reuse the materials we will already be carrying, and combine them with what is already available at our destination, which is, in this case, soil. We recycle here on Earth – why not on Mars?”

Registration for Phase 2 is open now through January 31, 2017. Phase 3 will focus on fabrication of complete habitats. Phase 1 of NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge, a design competition, was completed in 2015.

NASA’s Centennial Challenges Program uses competitions to draw citizen inventors from diverse backgrounds and disciplines to push technology forward for the benefit of space exploration. Centennial Challenges is part of the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate.

For more information about the competition, visit

To register and find official rules and documents, visit