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  • Writer's pictureVeronica Brush

We Need to Talk About Marsha

Who’s Marsha? A building! (You didn’t see that coming, did you?)

And, no, Marsha’s not just a building someone painted a face on or some futuristic voice-activated, AI house that you know is going to malfunction and kill everyone.

Marsha is the coolest building ever!

Marsha (yes, I’m going to say that name a lot)(Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!) is a nickname for what it is: a Mars Habitat.

Do you see it? MARS HA-bitat.

You see it.

Anyway, NASA was holding a mutli-year competition wherein companies competed to invent a habitat that could be used in a Martian colony for colonists to comfortably live in for extended periods. Teams had to come up with the design, the material it would be made out of and…(This is the best part)…the structures had to be 3D printed!

I’m not talking about tiny models. NASA wants to send 3D printers to Mars that will then build habitats for astronauts! ON MARS!!!

Are you freaking out, because I’m freaking out! This is the coolest thing ever, and it’s not even breaking news! This competition, which took multiple years to compete in, was from 2015-2019. The winners, a tech company called AI Space Factory, came up with Marsha and won in July 2019.

And here she is:

Obviously that’s a computer rendering. For the competition, the finalists only had to make a scaled-down version, so there is no full-sized Marsha…yet. But the scale model was tested for strength, air-tightness, and printability (because ideally, all the 3D printing of the habitats would happen on Mars before humans ever got there.)

Let me tell you some of the coolest things about Marsha:

- She has 4 floors! WHAT?! If you are a lover of sci-fi, one thing you’ll notice is that new colonies in sci-fi never have mutli-story homes! Sci-fi writers like me pride ourselves on coming up with crazy futuristic ideas, and yet none of us could imagine a colony consisting of multi-storied pods. I guess I must begrudgingly admit that engineers sometimes have good ideas, too.

- She’s made out of basalt. I don’t know much about 3D printing, so whenever I think about it, I think of things made of plastic. But you can 3D print with all kinds of materials nowadays! (Author note: I’m not as old as I sound.) You can even 3D print with basalt, apparently. Here’s the really exciting part about that: there’s basalt on the surface of Mars. So that’s one less thing the colonists have to remember to pack before they leave! And here’s the other coolest thing about that: basalt is a good material for radiation protection, which is something you need on Mars. The basalt would be mixed with a bioplastic, but that is something that could be made from plants that colonists could grow and process on Mars.

- She has windows and a skylight! How nice is that? I mean, no rooms with ocean-side views obviously, but it still makes the space feel more open, I’m sure! Have you heard of “glamping”? It’s short for glamor camping, in other words camping where you have such nice amenities, it’s not really like camping. That’s what the first people on Mars are going to be doing with Marsha: glamping! No cheap tents for our brave astronauts! Side note: the windows themselves aren’t 3D printed, but slide in during the process.

- She comes complete with a garage! Okay, garage is not the right word. What Marsha really has is a docking port for a rover. It’s still cool!

Now, as excited as I am about Marsha, I still don’t want to go to Mars. I don’t even like to go camping. Also, I’ve got dogs I simply can’t leave behind. But luckily AI Space Factory is working on building similar models on Earth. Since these models aren’t for a Mars Habitat, they’re called Tera instead. Unfortunately, while the first Tera was supposed to be open for business somewhere around March 2020…well, you know. Life happened. But maybe someday in the future, maybe at the same time as the first humans on Mars are settling into their Marsha house, I’ll be settling into my rented Tera house for the weekend.

What about you? Would you stay in a Marsha or a Tera? Can you think of a sci-fi new colony that has muti-leveled homes (and living in the spaceship doesn’t count!)? How would your dogs feel if you went to Mars? Let me know in the comments below.



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