Martian DUST could be used to 3D print tools and rocket parts on the Red Planet in future space missions, engineers say
- Researchers have found a way to 3D print rocket parts using Martian dust
- Mixing small amounts with a titanium alloy results in a high performance material
- This breakthrough could make future space travel cheaper and more practical
If humanity should ever colonize Marchwe will have to learn how to produce most of the food and equipment we need to survive on the red planet itself.
Indeed, the delivery of materials in space is prohibitively expensive. For example, it costs around $54,000 (£47,000) for the Nasa space shuttle to put just 1 kg (2.2 pounds) of payload into Earth orbit.
Anything that can be made on the planet will therefore save weight and money – not to mention the fact that, if something breaks, astronauts will need a way to fix it on the spot.
Now, researchers from washington state University (WSU) have found a way to 3D print tools and rocket parts using dust on the surface of Mars.
The breakthrough could make future space travel cheaper and more practical, the researchers say.
Washington State University (WSU) researchers have found a way to 3D print tools and rocket parts using dust on the surface of Mars
Transporting materials to Mars would also be extremely expensive, so anything that can be made on the planet would save weight and money.
Lunar soil could be used to convert CO2 into oxygen and ROCKET FUEL to power future missions to Mars
Lunar soil could potentially be converted into rocket fuel to power future missions to Mars, a new study you found.
Analysis of dirt granules brought back by China’s Chang’e 5 spacecraft has revealed that regolith on the moon contains compounds that convert carbon dioxide to oxygen.
The soil is rich in iron and titanium, which work as catalysts under sunlight and could turn carbon dioxide and water released by astronauts’ bodies into oxygen, hydrogen and other useful by-products like methane. to power a moon base.
As liquefied oxygen and hydrogen make rocket fuel, it also opens the door to a lower-cost interplanetary gas station on the moon for trips to the Red Planet and beyond.
“In space, 3D printing is something that has to happen if we want to think about a manned mission, because we really can’t transport everything from here,” said Professor Amit Bandyopadhyay from the school of Mechanical and Materials Engineering from WSU.
“And if we forgot something, we can’t come back for it.”
Along with graduate students Ali Afrouzian and Kellen Traxel, Professor Bandyopadhyay used a powder-based 3D printer to mix simulated Martian rock dust (known as regolith) with a titanium alloy.
Titanium is often used in space exploration due to its strength and heat resistant properties.
A high-powered laser then heated the materials to over 2,000°C (3,632°F) to melt them.
The molten mixture was then poured onto a moving platform, allowing researchers to create different sizes and shapes.
After the material cooled, the researchers tested it for strength and durability.
They found that small amounts of simulated crushed Martian rock mixed with a titanium alloy made a strong, high-performance material that could be used to make tools and rocket parts on the Red Planet.
They made tools using between 5% and 100% Martian regolith, a black powdery substance meant to mimic rocky, inorganic material on the surface of Mars that could be collected by a robotic arm or rover.
Parts made from five percent regolith exhibited better properties than titanium alloy alone, which meant it could be used to make lighter parts that could still support heavy loads.
“It gives you a better material that’s stronger and harder, so it can perform significantly better in certain applications,” Bandyopadhyay said.
Researchers found that small amounts of simulated crushed Martian rock mixed with a titanium alloy made for a strong, high-performance material
Pieces made from 100% regolith were brittle and cracked easily, but Bandyopadhyay says the material could still be used as a coating for radiation shields.
Bandyopadhyay said the study, published in the International Journal of Applied Ceramic Technology, is just the beginning and future research could produce better composites using different metals or 3D printing techniques.
“It proves it’s possible, and maybe we should think in that direction,” he said.
“Because it’s not just about making plastic parts that are weak, but also metal-ceramic composite parts that are strong and can be used for any kind of structural parts.”
Professor Bandyopadhyay has worked on similar experiments before, using 3D printing to make parts from simulated crushed moon rock – or lunar regolith – for NASA in 2011.
Since then, space agencies have been working more and more with 3D printing, and the International Space Station now has its own devices to manufacture the materials they need on site and for experiments.
NASA plans to send a manned mission to Mars in the 2030s after its first moon landing
Mars has become the next giant leap for humanity’s exploration of space.
But before humans arrive on the Red Planet, astronauts will take a series of small steps as they return to the moon for a year-long mission.
Details of a mission to lunar orbit have been revealed as part of a timeline of events leading to missions to Mars in the 2030s.
Nasa presented its four-step plan (pictured) which it hopes will one day allow humans to visit Mars at the Humans to Mars summit in Washington DC yesterday This will involve multiple missions to the moon over the next few decades
In May 2017, Greg Williams, Deputy Associate Administrator for Policy and Plans at noseoutlined the space agency’s four-step plan that it hopes will one day allow humans to visit Mars, as well as its expected timeline.
Stage one and two will involve multiple trips to lunar space, to allow for the construction of a habitat that will provide a resting place for the trip.
The final piece of hardware delivered would be the current deep space transport vehicle which would then be used to transport crew to Mars.
And a year-long simulation of life on Mars will be conducted in 2027.
Phases three and four will begin after 2030 and will involve sustained crewed expeditions to the Martian system and the surface of Mars.