Future Space Habitats

4 min readAug 7, 2019

SpaceChain’s CEO Zee Zheng sat down for an exclusive interviewwith Tim Draper, the noted venture capitalist, in which Draper outlined his thoughts on the near-term, long-term, and super-long-term applications of space technology. He believes the near-term use-cases will be all about surveillance, the long-term will be about governance, and the super-long-term will be about human habitation. We will explore each of these in a blog series inspired by Draper’s vision.

If you’ve ever wondered what living on Mars might look like, then the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) may have recently made that idea a little more clear for everyone.

After 30 hours of 3D printing over four days, NASA and partner Bradley University of Peoria, Illinois, have awarded USD$700,000 to two teams in the final round of the 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge. The top prize of USD$500,000 was awarded to New York based AI. SpaceFactory. The size of the structures had to be a one-third scale version of their architectural designs but more importantly they had to be made out of materials that could be found on deep-space destinations.

“It is an impressive achievement for these two teams to demonstrate this disruptive and terrific 3D-printing technology at such a large scale,” said Lex Akers, dean of Bradley’s Caterpillar College of Engineering and Technology. “By teaming up with NASA and Caterpillar, we are proud to bring these teams together in an environment where they can innovate, create and challenge our vision of what’s possible.”

AI. Space Factory developed a sustainable and recyclable material, made essentially of plants and rock, which outperformed concrete in every strength, durability, freeze-thaw, and quality test. That material can then be successfully extruded to create complex, high-performance forms with speed and precision.

AI. SpaceFactory of New York wins the final round of NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge, held at Caterpillar’s Edwards Demonstration & Learning Center in Edwards, Illinois. Credits: NASA/Emmett Given

When the competition was done, the team dismantled the habitat and put the pieces on a trailer headed for New York, where they will use it to demonstrate the most remarkable aspect of their super-strong material: It’s recyclable!

AI SpaceFactory will be using the remains of the prototype to 3D print their first Earth habitat, this Summer in upstate New York and open it to their first guests later in the year.Yes, you read that correctly, The AI. Space Factory team is planning to build a working version of their space habitat that you can book a nights stay in. Now you can live out your Martian space fantasies without traipsing all across the solar system.

Renderings of the habitat in the natural environment of upstate New York, the planned location for the structure.

As a space and blockchain infrastructure company, we at SpaceChainare very encouraged to see such progress being made in the advancement of space exploration and we intend to be there alongside AI. Space Factory and all the innovators in this journey.