Yes, we've yet to successfully send humans to Mars, but we already need to start thinking how we can stay there for long stretches of time -- or even for good. NASA launched the 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge back in 2015 to find a suitable artificial housing for the first wave of Martian residents, and now the agency has narrowed the contestants down to five after seeing the realistic virtual models they created. The agency and its project partner, Illinois' Bradley University, judged 18 teams' models created using a specialized software.
According to TechCrunch, the software requires various details about the structures creators are designing. In other words, the teams couldn't just come up with a concept that looks good -- they had to make sure their habitats' wall thickness, heating, pressure sealing and other elements can actually withstand harsh Martian conditions.
The five teams split a $100,000 cash pot earmarked for this stage of the competition, with the two top teams taking home $20,957.95 each. One of the top teams, Zopherus from Arkansas, has envisioned a habitat built by moving 3D printers that can deploy rovers to retrieve local materials for construction.