The Mojave desert will be home to 3D-printed Martian colony bases

We’ve heard about 3D printing being used to create entire buildings, and of 3D printing in space. But the two of them together? Not so much. Until now.

That’s the concept behind Mars City Design, an ambitious (to put it mildly) project that is seeking designers from around the world to come up with concepts for what a self-sustaining Mars colony might look like. Participants include teams from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University, Ares Astronautics, and others.

The concepts from the 25 finalists include such unique projects as “Neurosynthesis,” which boasts a closed river system and even an artificial waterfall; “Project Dandelion,” which uses the planet’s soil to provide sustainable oxygen and water; and “The Mars Living Machine,” which explores how extreme environments like Mars will help shape architecture; among others.

Having raised $30,000 on Kickstarter (reportedly with the endorsement of Apollo 11 pilot Buzz Aldrin), the project will next see finalists refine their creations with the aid of aerospace engineers. From there, the plan is for the would-be space colonies to be 3D printed at full size for testing in the Mojave desert within the next three years.

“What we’re trying to do in our workshop is to experiment,” project creator and self-proclaimed “Marschitect” Vera Mulyani told Digital Trends. “The gravity on Mars is different, so the density of the building materials will be different. It’s not about an architectural project that just looks cool; we have to see how far we can push 3D printing by experimenting [with] new ingredients for the paste and eventually building in some of the most extreme places on Earth. We want to learn how we can modify what we have today so that we can use it on Mars. Once we have that answer, we can improve our tools.”

If the idea of building a space colony in one of the most inhospitable places on Earth, en route to the stars, sounds a bit, well, crazy, it’s this kind of out-of-the-box thinking that’ll ultimately help the Mars colony dream take the giant leap into reality.

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