Ready, Set…Mars! Imagining Life on the Red Planet

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Ready, Set…Mars! Imagining Life on the Red Planet

After reviewing months of work and hundreds of 3D designs, HP’s second Mars Home Planet challenge unveils its 10 finalists.

One of the Mars Home Planet contest winners designed wind turbines that reap energy from dust storms—and provide a protective shield for settlements.

The award-winning Dune Runner is an electric car that transports goods and people across Mars in style.

A biological membrane of algae and water protects contest finalist Algi City, a collective community based on the closed-loop use of resources.

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After reviewing months of work and hundreds of #3Ddesigns, @HP’s 2nd Mars Home Planet challenge unveils its 10 finalists: #innovation #tech
Friday, May 18, 2018 - 9:20am

CAMPAIGN: HP, Inc. | Environment


A solar-field construction vehicle with nimble robot arms that piece together solar cells. Vertical turbines that harness the energy of dust storms — and shield nearby cities from their force. A compact settlement built underground in rust-red soil, capped by series of stunning atriums.

Those are just a few of the winning entries that wowed the judges of the second round of HP’s Mars Home Planet challenge, including star architect Daniel Libeskind; Dr. Robert Zubrin, president of the Mars Society; and Dr. Sanjay Vijendran of the Mars Mission for the European Space Agency.

“The entries are mind-bending,” says Sean Young, HP’s worldwide segment manager for product development and AEC. “Some are so beautiful and so well thought out that it makes you want to go live on Mars.” 

A bounty of engineering skill and innovative thinking

Launched last summer by HP and a host of partners including NVIDIA, HP’s Mars Home Planet is a yearlong crowdsourcing project with one goal — to imagine what life might be like for a city of one million people on Mars. By this August, the project will create a full-blown virtual-reality experience that will bring visitors into the world the challenge's participants envision for human habitation of the Red Planet. So far, 82,500 people from all over the globe have joined the party.

In this second round of the challenge, teams and individuals submitted 332 designs in seven categories, from mechanical engineering to interior design. Young says dozens of the top entries in each category showed remarkable levels of engineering skill and innovative thinking. 

Far out dune runner

Igor Sobolevsky, a project industrial designer at Stanley Black & Decker in Baltimore, who won in the vehicle-design category, says he happily holed up at home for a month to work on his submission. “One of my passions is physics and space exploration — painting a vision of what all these potential developments and technologies could be,” says Sobolevsky. “So when I saw this contest, I decided to go all in.”

Sobolevsky designed the Dune Runner, a muscular yet sleek electric truck for transporting Martian citizens and goods in an imaginary colony 50 years from now. Equipped with solar arrays and manipulator robot arms that can move payloads on and off the truck, the Dune Runner can climb steep Martian surfaces and work nonstop for up to 12 hours.

In Studio Libeskind’s notes about this winning submission, the firm described Sobolevsky’s space vehicle as “a virtuoso design interpretation of transport over the Martian landscape. Life on Mars doesn’t need to be all work, but can include play.” 

Putting garbage and waste to good use

On the other end of the design spectrum, Nacho Martin of Spain won for his Algi City, an undulating, organic metropolis on Mars. Protected by a biological membrane made of algae and water, Algi City is designed to be a no-waste collective committed not just to the closed-loop reuse of resources on Mars, but also to using recycled resources from Earth, such as plastics.

“Algi City presents a remarkable vision of future habitation, with a dizzying array of technology meets biology,” wrote judge Dr. Darlene Lim, a geobiologist at NASA Ames Research Center, in her notes on the winners.

Ramping up to 3D

This is the second time the work of Mars Home Planet's community of students, scientists and space lovers from all over our planet has impressed the judges. The project’s first competition, which ended in November, was designed to get participants’ creative juices going. And boy, did it ever — entrants submitted sophisticated, detailed conceptual designs for how people might live, raise food and get around on Mars.

For round two the difficulty was ramped up significantly. In addition to coming up with designs, participants had to create 3D models of their submissions using Autodesk software (which Autodesk provided as free-trial copies). The science and engineering of the submissions also had to hew to the physical realities of the Red Planet, from its lower gravitational force to its higher levels of radiation.  

“The challenge is not for the faint of heart,“ notes Aimee Doyne, an AEC and product-development segment project manager at HP who is also managing the competition. “Yet the overwhelming response and incredible contributions continued — people did not lose steam.”

Up next: a virtual visit to Mars

Now, it’s all systems go for the third round of the Mars Home Planet challenge: the rendering phase. Participants will be asked to create still, animated, real-time or VR renderings depicting a smart city or region on Mars for a million people. That will provide the leadup to the final phase, whose winning 3D models will be put into Epic Games’ Unreal Engine to create the virtual-reality simulation. Experts from Technicolor and HP will oversee this stage of the project, working with community members to create a VR experience that will be unveiled to the public in August.

For Sodolsky, the project is beyond fun — it's inspiring. “The Mars Home Planet challenge paints a positive vision of the future, and that’s something I’d like to contribute to in any way I can.”

It’s certainly a whirlwind of a year for scientists and space aficionados. See you after round three!

Here's a full list of the winners of the HP Mars Home Planet 3D Modeling Challenge: 

Civil Engineering Winner:

Athena – A City On Mars (Architectural Design)
N. Logesh

Architecture Winner:

Will Zhu & Junru Tao

Interior Design Winner:

ALGI_The Green Million City
Nacho Martin

Vehicle Design Winner:

Dune Runner/Multi Purpose Transport System
Igor Sobolevsky

Industrial Design Winner:

SCV (Solar Field Construction Vehicle)
Gurupkar Nerwal

Mechanical Engineering Winner:

Shielding and Harnessing Energy from Mars Dust-Storms
Bijay Balia Hembram

3D Art Winner:

Martian Settlement
Alexander Zhilkin

Community Awards Winners:

Mars MMR
Yanmou Ni

The Mars Ranger
Matthew O’Halloran

Long Range Universal Platform
Rustam Shaikhlislamov

Sign up to help design the colony on Mars for a million people.