NASA Challenges Students To Create 3-D Designs For Astronaut Health

NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg, Expedition 36 flight engineer, conducts an ocular health exam. Image Credit: NASA

NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg, Expedition 36 flight engineer, conducts an ocular health exam. Image Credit: NASA

October 26, 2016 – Calling all students! NASA needs your help to design an object that could be used by an astronaut to maintain physical health on a 3-year mission to Mars. The Mars Medical Challenge is the fifth in series of Future Engineers Challenges where students in grades K-12 will create and submit a digital 3-D model intended to be 3-D printed and could be used for a wide range of medical needs including diagnostic, preventative, first-aid, emergency, surgical, and/or dental purposes.

Research conducted by astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) educates our nation and world about the health challenges that astronauts face on prolonged missions. A better understanding of the effects of space is needed as we prepare for round trip journeys to Mars that could extend as long as three years. On the International Space Station, astronauts are equipped with health-related supplies and equipment that provide life support and resuscitation, health monitoring, and medical care. These supplies are replenished from Earth by commercial resupply supply ships.

NASA’s In-Space Manufacturing Project is demonstrating the capability of utilizing 3-D printers and recyclers for in-space additive manufacturing technology aboard the space station. This is the first step toward realizing a fabrication capability to print on demand, or a “fab lab,” for long-duration missions and sustaining human exploration of other planets. As humans venture farther from Earth supplies won’t be readily available and will be expensive to ship to astronauts, so we are looking at designs that can be printed off-planet using a 3-D printer and recycled when they are no longer needed.

As NASA continues to investigate how the human body adjusts to weightlessness, radiation, and stress that occur long duration spaceflight, Future Engineers proposes to engage students with a related challenge. The Mars Medical Challenge asks students to design a 3-D printed object that will keep astronauts healthy during the long trip to the red planet. Specifically, we will emphasize medical, and dental hardware during this challenge.

What health-related items do you think an astronaut will need on that journey, and why would these items require a 3-D printer? It’s time to start flexing your problem-solving and design skills to find a solution – good luck!

Students ages 5-19 years old are invited to become the creators and innovators of tomorrow by using 3-D modeling software to submit their designs for healthy hardware that could be used by astronauts on a future mission to Mars. Students have the opportunity to win prizes ranging from a Mars prize pack, a 3-D printer for their school, or a trip to Houston for a tour of NASA’s Johnson Space Center. The challenge closes on January 25, 2017 with winners announced on March 28, 2017.

NASA in conjunction with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Foundation has issued a series of “Future Engineers” 3-D Space Challenges for students focused on solving real-world space exploration problems. Future Engineers is a multi-year education initiative that consists of 3-D Space Challenges and curriculum videos on the site that parents and educators can use to get kids designing today.

For more information on the challenge, visit: