NASA's accepting Mars habitat prototype ideas until June

Before we send humans to Mars, we need somewhere for them to live. NASA has been entertaining ideas for deep space habitats for years, and now it is actively seeking proposals on the development of those prototypes. This is the next step in the NextSTEP Broad Agency Announcement from October 2014, and it's being called NextSTEP-2. NASA describes NextSTEP as a "public-private" partnership.

NASA has been working hard on plans to get humans to Mars, and it draws a bit closer every day. The space agency has dedicated its efforts to the Space Launch System and Orion, a crew spacecraft that will one day take humans into deep space. Those systems are scheduled to have their maiden flights in 2018, and as such NASA is now spurring its efforts for deep-space habitation.

NextSTEP-2 is designed to give new partners an opportunity to get on board with the program and to propose their own ideas for "an evolvable approach to long-duration deep space habitation," says NASA. As well, the agency seeks to have full-sized habitat prototypes established by 2018.

Certain non-profit organizations, companies, and universities can send NASA their proposals by the June 15 deadline, though if the proposal will take a while, they have to send the space agency a notice of intent by May 13. On April 25, NASA will give prospective entities the chance to ask questions, though they can also submit queries in writing up through May 2.