Aug 3, 2016 | By Alec

All Mars specialists agree: 3D printing will play a crucial role in putting a man on the Red Planet. Not only can in-space 3D printing greatly reduce the logistic costs involved in such an unparalleled aerospace undertaking, but it could also be an excellent option for building structures on the surface of Mars. But making big dreams a reality is impossible without extensive testing, and not all specialists are agreed on how the Mars Colony will look like, or what it will be made of. To find the best possible solution, Mars City Design is planning to 3D print a series of Mars structure prototypes in the Mojave Desert.

The plan itself is the brainchild of Indonesia-born and self-proclaimed ‘Marschitect’ Vera Mulyani. Back in 2015, she founded Mars City Design, a think tank that dreams of a Mars colony and is working hard to develop blueprints for the first self-sustaining city on the Red Planet. To speed up those plans, the think tank previously launched a Mars City Design challenge that resulted in numerous construction concepts that could be perfect for the Red Planet. More recently, Mulyani launched the City on Mars Workshop, through which these Mars structure plans will be further worked out and ultimately tested in the Mojave Desert in three years from now.

It’s an ambitious, but very sensible plan. After all, the harsh surface of Mars is expected to resemble a desert landscape of sorts: covered in inhospitable rock formations and more dust than you can handle. But this plan is remarkable for at least one other reason: it is being backed by passionate space fans from all over the world. Back in July, Mars City Design managed to raise over $30,000 on Kickstarter to fund the City on Mars workshop.

This is great news for all aerospace dreamers, as the workshop will now become a reality. It is currently scheduled to kick off in September at the University of Southern California, and engineers, designers and architects from around the world will converge to discuss the most important aspects of life on Mars. The initial goal is to establish a base of four people on Mars, which should ultimately grow into a population of 1,000. However, the planning itself will go from macro to micro – from challenges faced by an entire city down to the individual level. Among others, NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover project manager Jim Erickson, professor Madhu Thangavelu from the Viterbi School of Engineering and Buzz Aldrin will be speaking. The latter also played a role in the project’s promotion.

But unfortunately, not everyone will be able to attend. Specially, the workshop will bring the 25 finalists from the Mars City Design challenge together, and provide them with the means to improve their concepts. Among them are teams from MIT, Carnegie Mellon University, and Ares Astronautics.

Ultimately, the three best plans will be 3D printed in the Mojave desert, at the test area of the Reaction Research Society. Some of the most inspiring concepts include Neurosynthesis, which proposed a closed river system, Project Dandelion, which aimed to use the common Martian regolith soil as a source of oxygen and energy, and the Vertical Farms concept which could maximize food output.

Now you might wonder why people are already fussing over permanent homes when we haven’t even come close to Mars yet, but Mulyani says it’s very important to look forward as much as possible. “[We need to examine] what happens after the first city, what happens after we have a base,” she argues. “We can think of how to use every single stage of the design process and engage in sensible waste-management from the beginning. With Mars, we have a chance to start afresh.” The Marschitect added that this type of long-term thinking is unfortunately still largely absent here on our own planet. Perhaps we here on Earth can also learn from a city on Mars.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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