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NASA via Tumblr
NASA via Tumblr

These 3D Printable Habitats Were Designed for Life on Mars

NASA via Tumblr
NASA via Tumblr

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]

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History
The Secret World War II History Hidden in London's Fences

In South London, the remains of the UK’s World War II history are visible in an unlikely place—one that you might pass by regularly and never take a second look at. In a significant number of housing estates, the fences around the perimeter are actually upcycled medical stretchers from the war, as the design podcast 99% Invisible reports.

During the Blitz of 1940 and 1941, the UK’s Air Raid Precautions department worked to protect civilians from the bombings. The organization built 60,000 steel stretchers to carry injured people during attacks. The metal structures were designed to be easy to disinfect in case of a gas attack, but that design ended up making them perfect for reuse after the war.

Many London housing developments at the time had to remove their fences so that the metal could be used in the war effort, and once the war was over, they were looking to replace them. The London County Council came up with a solution that would benefit everyone: They repurposed the excess stretchers that the city no longer needed into residential railings.

You can tell a stretcher railing from a regular fence because of the curves in the poles at the top and bottom of the fence. They’re hand-holds, designed to make it easier to carry it.

Unfortunately, decades of being exposed to the elements have left some of these historic artifacts in poor shape, and some housing estates have removed them due to high levels of degradation. The Stretcher Railing Society is currently working to preserve these heritage pieces of London infrastructure.

As of right now, though, there are plenty of stretchers you can still find on the streets. If you're in the London area, this handy Google map shows where you can find the historic fencing.

[h/t 99% Invisible]

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The Force Field Cloak
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Design
This Glowing Blanket Is Designed to Ease Kids' Fear of the Dark
The Force Field Cloak
The Force Field Cloak

Many kids have a security blanket they bring to bed with them every night, but sometimes, a regular blankie is no match for the monsters that invade their imaginations once the lights are off. Now there’s a glow-in-the-dark blanket designed to make children feel safer in bed, no night light required.

Dubbed the Force Field Cloak, the fleece blanket comes in several colorful, glowing patterns that remain invisible during the day. At night, you leave the blanket under a bright light for about 10 minutes, then the shining design will reveal itself in the dark. The glow lasts 8 to 10 hours, just long enough to get a child through the night.

Inventor Terry Sachetti was inspired to create the blanket by his own experiences struggling with scary nighttime thoughts as a kid. "I remember when I was young and afraid of the dark. I would lie in my bed at night, and my imagination would start getting the best of me," he writes on the product's Kickstarter page. "I would start thinking that someone or something was going to grab my foot that was hanging over the side of the bed. When that happened, I would put my foot back under my blanket where I knew I was safe. Nothing could get me under my blanket. No boogiemen, no aliens, no monsters under my bed, nothing. Sound familiar?"

The Force Field Cloak, which has already surpassed its funding goals on both Indiegogo and Kickstarter, takes the comfort of a blanket to the next level. The glowing, non-toxic ink decorating the material acts as a gentle night light that kids can wrap around their whole body. The result, the team claims, is a secure feeling that quiets those thoughts about bad guys hiding in the shadows.

To pre-order a Force Field Cloak, you can pledge $36 or more to the product’s Indiegogo campaign. It is expected to start shipping in January 2018.

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