Last May, NASA announced that they were seeking submissions for designs of possible habitats that could be used during extended missions to Mars. In order to achieve this using as few materials as possible, the one condition they gave was that all concepts be 3D printable. The finalists have been announced, and each design offers a fascinating vision of what life on the red planet might look like.

One structure is composed of a 3D-printed composite lattice that makes the outside resemble a modern art sculpture. Another uses a corkscrew design that bores into Mars’ Equatorial Frozen Sea, providing easy access to water and protection from harsh cosmic radiation. All concepts would be constructed using materials native to the planet, like rocky regolith and high iron content silica sand. That way astronauts could pack relatively light for their long mission to Mars, taking only blueprints and a 3D printer to construct their shelter.

Final contestants have the chance to win $50,000 if their design is chosen. What's more, the two teams with the best strategy for fabricating building materials will be awarded an even more impressive prize of $1.1 million a piece.

Even if these particular habitats never break ground on Mars, the contest is a great way to inspire out-of-the-box thinking about the particular challenges of life on the Red Planet. You can check out some of the final designs below, and visit NASA's 3DP Tumblr page for more details. 

All photos courtesy of NASA via Tumblr

[h/t: Popular Mechanics]