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MAKING IT ON MARS

JEFFREY MONTES STANDS HIGH ON A LADDER IN DIRT-FLOORED ARENA, SQUINTING HIS KHAKIS AND BLACK T-SHIRT ARE REMARKABLY TIDY FOR SOMEONE DEPLOYING RED GOO

to build a one-third scale model of what might someday be a home on Mars. Cleanliness happens when you outsource the dirty work to a robot.

Montes and his colleagues at architecture firm AI SpaceFactory are in a cavernous exhibition hall near Peoria, Illinois, to show NASA how astronauts could use 3D printing and Martian materials to make houses on the Red Planet. After spending the better part of 30 hours watching their custom-built printer squirt out a chocolate-colored domicile called “Marsha,” they have just minutes before the agency calls time in its 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge. The company’s only competition for the $500,000 prize, a team from Penn State University, finished its gray concrete double igloo a few minutes before.

Think of housing on Mars, and that’s the kind of shape that might come to mind. But Montes, an architect who spent 17 months designing Marsha (for bitat) and the equipment to print it, sees something that looks more like a jar. Or an urn. Or an egg. “It even has this hermaphroditic quality where on the outside it’s kind of phallic, and on the inside it’s…” He pauses. “Whatever the

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