Although RedWorks failed to come into the top three winners of the first stage of NASA competition, the team continues their efforts to develop a cheap and viable option for the Red Planet explorers that would be 3D printed from the local soil, including basalts.
A year ago, NASA conducted the first stage of Mars Habitat Challenge, a competition to design and build a 3D printed habitat for Mars colonists, in which teams from around the world participated.
The concept from RedWorks team came into the top 30 but didn’t get into the top three, although the team had developed a simple and workable design they consider to be still more than viable for off-planet colonization.
RedWorks offer to 3D print residential and industrial buildings from regolith, that is fine dust covering the Moon, Mars, and asteroids and mostly made of the same stuff, primarily silicates. So, the only thing they need to do is to heat those silicates to the point where they get something similar to a gypsum concrete.
Near volcanic areas on the Moon and Mars, there was basaltic regolith found, suitable for 3D habitat printing. According to Keegan Kirkpatrick, RedWorks founder, in this case, the printer head has to heat up the basalt quite a bit more to convert it to a molten material, and that’s very doable with a solar or microwave crucible.
Planets colonization is our immediate future. Even more, according to Kirkpatrick, we can experience a gold-rush due to mining for minerals in space. To make it true, the legal and technological base has been created.
In November 2015, the US Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act was signed into law, legalizing mining for resources in space and reducing regulatory barriers for space startups. The next aspect is development of reusable rockets that dramatically reduce the cost of space exploration.