MARSHA is a first-principles rethinking of what a Martian habitat could be – not another low-lying dome or confined half-buried structure but a flexible, multi-level, corridor-free home flooded with diffuse natural light and 3D printed using Martian resources. It is born of a careful response to the Martian environment and a synergy between architectural, structural and construction principles with the crew’s experience at the center. Missions present stresses and challenges that can’t be solved at the operational level and must be addressed spatially. Marsha addresses these issues and more, marking a radical departure from prior habitat schemes.

A vertically oriented cylinder is the best formal basis for a surface habitat. It is the most effective way to reduce loading and maximize usable space since it allows usable space to be aggregated vertically with vertical walls and a compact footprint, keep hoop stress and uplift forces manageable.

This configuration lends itself well to joining and separating mission activities in a meaningful way by level, avoiding the need to divide one large area into many small, confined spaces. In the context of additive manufacturing, vertical cylinders are also inherently the most construct-able shape.  Inside, a “double shell” system separates the architectural space from the pressure vessel subject to external conditions, allowing the interior to be high mass-optimized to serve the creation of habitable spaces. The space between the two serves multiple uses including natural daylighting, circulation and maintenance access.

Apart from the design, AI SpaceFactory has formulated a high-performance “Martian polymer” - basalt fiber-reinforced polylactic acid - that leverages in-situ resource utilization technologies to eliminate the dependency on rockets to transport materials from Earth and enable scalable construction on Mars. Our polymer was validated by a third-party lab and proven to outperform concrete in all relevant metrics including superior tensile and compressive strength, superior durability under extreme temperatures and higher ductiliy. It also promises superior cosmic radiation absorption and thermal resistance.

Once validated, it was only nine weeks until AI SpaceFactory progressed from basic tests to successfully printing, in 24 hrs, a large cylinder designed to hold twelve-hundred gallons of water complete with prefabricated wall penetrations robotically placed and sealed "on the fly". Our prototype has been validated by NASA with endorsements totaling $109,000 which we are investing in further development.

Lessons learned from prototyping and construction were applied to the design.

On May 4th, after three phases and $1.6 million awarded, the Challenge came to a dramatic conclusion at Caterpillar’s demonstration facility in Peoria, IL. The team I led at New York-based “multiplanetary architecture” startup AI SpaceFactory won the grand finale of the Challenge (and $500,000) by successfully printing our novel egg-shaped habitat design.

Design Phase 1

Jeffrey Montes (lead)
David Malott
Sima Shahverdi
David Riedel
Michael Bentley
Tony Jin

Prototype Phase 1

Jeffrey Montes
Christopher James Botham
David Malott
David Riedel

Prototype Phase 2

Jeffrey Montes
Christopher James Botham
David Malott
David Riedel

Design Phase 2

Jeffrey Montes

Prototype Phase 3

Jeffrey Montes
Christopher James Botham
David Riedel
James Earle
James Coleman

Design Phase Consultants

Structural engineering – Dennis C.K. Poon, Chi Chung Tse, Saravanan Panchacharam, Hao Chen, Thornton Tomasetti
Mechanical/ structural testing - Simpson, Gumpertz & Heger
Lighting design – Haniyeh Mirdamadi, Arup
Concrete design – Dr. Victor Li, University of Michigan
Polymer design – Techmer PM
Mars geochemistry – Dr. Scott McLennan, Stony Brook University
Planetary physics – Dr. Philip Metzger, University of Central Florida
Systems and civil engineering – Dr. Paul van Susante, Michigan Tech
ISRU/ ground conditions – Dr. Kris Zacny, Honeybee Robotics
Basalt construction – PISCES
Building energy performance - Duncan Phillips, RWDI

Prototype Phase Partners

Autodesk Technology Center Boston
Virginia Tech Center for Design Research
Macromolecules Innovation Institite at Virginia Tech
© Jeffrey Montes