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    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.

    The first towards construction of a prototype was the formulation of a construction material. At our direction Techmer PM formulated a high-performance “Martian polymer”: a basalt fiber-reinforced polylactic acid. This material was novel in that it used a “biopolymer” that can be made from plants high in polysaccarides (sugars) combined with volvanic rock that is known to be relatively abundant on Mars (and the Moon). Eventually, humanity will leverage in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) 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 many relevant metrics including tensile and compressive strength, durability under extreme temperatures and higher ductiliy. Being lower atomic mass, it also promises superior cosmic radiation absorption as compared to concrete. It is also an effective thermal resistor. 

    Once the material was 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 dynamically placed and sealed. At this point, our work had validated by NASA with endorsements totaling $109,000 which were invested in further development.

    Lessons learned from prototyping and construction were applied to the Design Phase II:

    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. Forced to print until the last second of allowable time, the team I led at AI SpaceFactory nonetheless won the grand prize of $500,000 by successfully printing a 1:3 scale prototype of the primary structure. Several documentaries have featured this effort, including Tech Insider, Seeker, and the YouTube Originals series The Age of AI, hosted by Robert Downey Jr.

Project Team

Design Phase 1

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

Construction Phase 1

Jeffrey Montes
Christopher James Botham
David Malott

Construction Phase 2

Jeffrey Montes
Christopher James Botham
David Malott

Design Phase 2

Jeffrey Montes

Construction Phase 3

Jeffrey Montes (team leader)
Christopher James Botham
David Riedel
James Earle
James Coleman
Amit Adhikaree

Consultants & Partners

Design Phases

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

Construction Phases 

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


    The construction effort was a major endeavor requiring the support and expertise of outside persons and institutions.
    The team is grateful to Techmer PM for taking a business risk, formulating the Marsha-α polymer and delivering it in a timely manner.
    It is hard to properly acknowledge the game-changing support from Autodesk Technology Center Boston. Without their training, expert advice and zen-like patience, this project would not have been possible and members of the Marsha-α team would be working on less interesting projects today. Thank you to Adam Allard, Joe Aronis, Stefanie Pender, Taylor Tobin, Athena Moore, Adam Day, Zack Tenaglia, Josh Aigen and Hannah Rossi.
    Virginia Tech Center for Design Innovation supported the effort with an equipment loan and by lending their hands-on help in Peoria during the final print. Thank you to Nathan King, Bob Dunay, Joseph Kubalak, Benjamin Woods, Kaelum Hasler, and Callan McGill.
    Caterpillar Edwards Demonstration and Learning Facility, where the final event happened, showed great professionalism and made every effort to accommodate last-minute needs while maintaining a safe environment.
    Finally, thanks to NASA Centennial Challenges and for their vision in creating this Challenge. It has changed the course of Space technology and changed the course of the team’s careers for the better.


iSEE (in-situ Spectroscopic Europa Explorer) is a next-generation ultra-compact Raman system with superior performance that meets the top-level scientific requirements of multiple planetary missions to the inner and outer Solar System.

Concept design for Honeybee Robotics and Impossible Sensing

Text taken from PROGRAMMABLE RAMAN SENSING FOR IN-SITU PLANETARY EXPLORATION. P. Sobron, L. Barge, A. Davila, M. Fahey, M. Krainak, F. Rehnmark, A. Yu, K. Zacny.


The use of in-situ resources in lunar regolith for production of propellant, life support, and construction (e.g. polar water ice, hydrogen, helium-3, and regolith minerals) will enable sustainable robotic and human space exploration and pave the way for commercialization of lunar exploration. Currently, the search for and characterization of resources on the Moon uses orbital datasets and local geological and geophysical surveys to map and characterize potential deposits. To develop efficient ISRU systems, it is essential to find, characterize, and map lunar resources in-situ, at local scales, using deployable, analytical payloads. We have developed a 3 kg, TRL4 scientific payload, MoonSHOT (Moon Subsurface Hydrogen Optical Tool), to characterize and map lunar resources from a small lander or rover.

MoonSHOT is a next-generation ultra-compact laser spectroscopy system equipped with a fiber optic sensing probe that enables in-situ geochemical and mineralogical analysis and mapping of Moon surface and shallow-subsurface samples in a remote location without having to extract a sample and bring it to a spectrometer.

MoonSHOT's core unit, hosted inside the spacecraft, contains laser, spectrometer, and electronic modules. The core unit connects to a shielded fiber-optic umbilical and a reusable, gimbaled electro-mechanical spool. The fiber is terminated in a miniature optical probe that is inserted from either a lander or rover into the lunar regolith via a penetrator. Operationally, the concept of operation of MoonSHOT is to 1) aim and release/shoot the fiber-tethered penetrator into regolith up to 20 m away from the landed craft and down to 5 cm (these are baseline requirements and can be modified); 2) illuminate a sample to induce Raman scattering and LIBS; 3) collect and relay this light to the spectrometer, where spectral intensity and distribution are measured, recorded, and analyzed in real time to generate science measurements; and 4) reel in/recover the probe. Using this architecture, MoonSHOT can be repeatedly deployed and retrieved from a fixed lander or mobile rover

Concept design for Honeybee Robotics and Impossible Sensing.

Text taken from REDEPLOYABLE SENSOR PROBE FOR IN-SITU LUNAR RESOURCE MAPPING FROM SMALL LANDERS by P. Sobron, M. Fahey, M. Krainak, A. Misra, F. Rehnmark, A. Wang, A. Yu, K. Zacny, R. Zeigler. 


Extraction of Water from Mars’ Ice Deposits

    In the past decade orbital measure-ments revealed that a third of the Martian surface con-tains shallow ground ice. MRO’s SHARAD sounder has revealed the presence of ice-rich materials in sev-eral non-polar terrains, including debris-covered glaci-ers and ground ices extending down to latitudes of 37° [1]. These deposits are up to several 100 m thick and many appear to consist of nearly pure water ice. The ability of the radar to resolve shallow layering is lim-ited to ~20 m .Thus, to reach ice and extract water, a system would need to penetrate through at most 20 m of regolith. The discoveries of nearly pure ice deposits in mid latitudes on Mars enable implementing two proven terrestrial technologies: Coiled Tubing (CT) for drilling and Rodriquez Well (RodWell) for water ex-traction.
    CT rigs use a continuous length of tubing (metal or composite) that is flexible enough to be wound on a reel and rigid enough to withstand drilling forces and torques. The tube is pushed downhole using so-called injectors (for example, a set of actuated rollers that pinch the tube and advance it downward). The end of the tube has a Bottom Hole Assembly (BHA) – a motor and a drill bit for drilling into the subsurface. To re-move drill cuttings, compressed air (or other drilling fluid) is pumped down the tube. A hole is drilled by advancing coiled tubing deeper into the subsurface while blowing cuttings out of the way. A commercial CT rig, such as RoXplorer, weighs 15 tons and drills to 500 m at 1 m/min in hard rock.
    RodWell is a technology where a hole is drilled in ice, which is melted and pumped to the surface. It has been developed and tested in Antarctica in the 1960s and used at the South Pole station since 2002.

    The RedWater system combines the two technologies into one. It uses the CT approach to create a drill hole. Once the hole is made, the coiled tubing is left in the hole and used as conduit for water extraction. The BHA con-tains a rotary-percussive drill subsystem (similar to the one used in Honeybee Robotics Deep Drill [3]), a downhole pump, and heaters. The tube houses an insu-lated and heated hose as well as wires for downhole motors and heaters. During drilling, compressed gas is sent downhole through the hose [4, 5, 6]. The gas es-capes through the annular space between the tube and borehole wall and removes cuttings that can be collect-ed and analyzed for science. Upon reaching an ice layer, the drill continues for another ~3 m and then stops advancing forward, but the bit continues to spin. Heat-ers are turned on to melt the surrounding ice. Once ice starts to melt, the peristaltic pump starts pumping a fraction of the melted water up the same hose that was used for the compressed gas, and into a storage tank on the surface via a three-way heated valve, which switch-es between the gas tank and the water tank. The re-maining water passes through a downhole heater and is pumped into the rotating bit for water jetting. This con-tinuous stirring and the injection of hot water speeds up the melting process. After melting a section of ice, the CT is reactivated to drill further into the underlying ice and the melting process continues.
   Since atmospheric pressures and temperatures in the Martian northern plains extends above water’s tri-ple point, liquid water can exist at the surface. Howev-er, it is unstable and will boil off very quickly. For this reason, it is desirable to seal off the hole. This can be achieved via active means (e.g., a packer can expand in the hole and seal off the annular space between the tube and the borehole) or passive means (e.g., water vapor would re-condense on the cold borehole wall and seal it; this in fact has been observed). In the latter case, the tube would have to be heated to free itself up before continuing further down, when needed.
[source: text by technical proposal team]

Proposal Team

K. Zacny, Honeybee Robotics
M. Hecht,  Haystack Observatory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
N. E. Putzig, Planetary Science Institute
D. Sabahi, NASA JPL -retired
P. van Susante, Michigan Technological University

Jetportal Spaceformcraft provided concept development, design modeling and visualization.

The Snail

This concept for a mobile water production system on Mars was created for a proposal submitted to NASA by Michigan Technological University and Honeybee Robotics. It was subsequently awarded a $200,000 in first-year funding. 

[image] concept design by Jetportal Spaceformcraft

If mining machinery breaks down on Earth, fixing the problem is expensive, but it’s also just a phone call away. There are no mechanics on Mars; therefore, coming up with a way to mine that causes the least wear on machines was the starting point for a project occurring millions of miles away.

“How could you mine hard rock knowing these machines have to operate for many years without maintenance?” asks van Susante, senior lecturer in mechanical engineering-engineering mechanics and faculty advisor to the Mining Innovation Enterprise (MINE) team. “The problem is the metal that exerts the force to break the rock. Metal wears down or breaks off, requiring maintenance. We’re trying to eliminate that part of it. We came up with idea to use a water jet, or some other gas or liquid, that we can spray at high pressure at the rock. It’s a new idea in space that hasn’t been proposed before.”

-Co-investigator Dr. Paul Van Susante [source]


Water is the most commonly desired resource to be extracted in-situ in order to reduce consumable import from Earth. Water can be used to create rocket fuel and oxidizer (e.g. CH4 together with CO2 from the atmosphere, H2 and/or O2) as well as water for use by future astronauts. The overall objective of the proposed research is to demonstrate an innovative process for extraction of water from hard extraterrestrial soils. The process involves ‘dissolving’ and disaggregating the hard surface material under a dome using water jet to form a slurry then pumping the slurry into the water extraction system. The proposed process eliminates the hardest problem in mining: comminution, which always involves heavy equipment, significant energies, forces, and consumables (cutting tools) that are impractical for sustained extraterrestrial mining and cause a lot of dust. The proposed innovation will enable a robust, scalable, sustainable method for water extraction capable of achieving the required 0.8 kg/hr production rate.

Proposal Team

PI: Jeffrey Allen (MTU)
Co-I: Timothy Eisele (MTU)
Co-I: Ezequiel Medici (MTU)
Co-I: Paul van Susante (MTU)
Co-I: Kris Zacny (Honeybee Robotics)
J e t p o r t a l    S p a c e f o r m c r a f t