A Contour Crafting robot prints a road in front of a hangar for a lunar lander. (CREDIT: Behnaz Farahi)

A Contour Crafting robot prints a road in front of a hangar for a lunar lander. (CREDIT: Behnaz Farahi/NASA)

Having a roof over your head is pretty important, and that gets even more important when the roof is the only thing that’s keeping the solar radiation off, and the air inside. But packing that roof — and the walls to go with it — away in a spacecraft that’s heading to the Moon or Mars takes up valuable space that could be used for other supplies.

Today at Maker Faire we spoke to Sam Ortega — the Program Manager of NASA’s Centennial Challenges Program — who announced a new $2.25 million competition to design and build a 3D printed habitat intended for deep space exploration.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7W4qFfpZmBM]

The collaboration between NASA and America Makes is a multi-stage challenge kicking off today, and running through September 27.

“The future possibilities for 3-D printing are inspiring, and the technology is extremely important to deep space exploration. This challenge definitely raises the bar from what we are currently capable of, and we are excited to see what the maker community does with it.” — Sam Ortega, NASA

The competition calls for development of 3D printing technologies to allow astronauts to build habitats after they land by making use of indigenous materials — Lunar or Martian dirt in other words — alongside waste water and other waste materials from the spacecraft. The top 30 submissions will be judged and a prize purse of $50,000 will be awarded at the 2015 World Maker Faire in New York.

The next stage of the competition then kicks off — it opens for registration as the first stage closes. In this stage there are actually two separate competitions, each carrying a $1.1 million prize pot. The first “Structural Member Competition” focuses on the fabrication technology itself, while the second, the “On-Site Habitat Competition,” challenges competitors to build full-scale habitats.