Mar 5, 2018 | By Tess

A student from Texas A&M has demonstrated how 3D printing can be used to help future settlers on Mars. The demonstration was part of the recent AMADEE-18 simulation mission organized by the Austrian Space Forum and the Oman National Steering Committee.

This past February, parts of Oman’s Dhofar desert were temporarily used as a setting for an extensive Mars simulation project. The mission, named AMADEE-18, was carried out by a small field crew who were tasked with conducting a range of experiments to help gain practical insight into how humans can settle on the Red Planet.

One experiment, “A3DPT-2-Mars,” had the express purpose of testing how 3D printing could be used by astronauts on Mars’ surface to additively manufacture tools, replacement parts, and other things.

Over the course of the four-week experiment, Mauricio Coen, a graduate student from Texas A&M, showed how additive manufacturing technologies could be a crucial tool in assisting future Mars settlers. One immediately useful application for the technology was to 3D print a shovel part when Coen’s shovel broke.

“We hypothesize that astronauts will be able to adapt more quickly to changing mission goals,” said Coen. “Crew time is one of the most valuable assets in any space exploration mission, and hopefully, 3D printing embedded in their daily operations will reduce time spent in cumbersome tasks, especially with repairs.”

Not only useful for repairs, 3D printing could provide the means to fabricate structures on Mars (and elsewhere in space) using local materials, which would eliminate the need to send construction materials on the long and expensive journey into space.

The AMADEE-18 simulation experiment was completed at the end of February, though results of the experiments have yet to come in. Coen, for his part, believes that 3D printing will play an integral role in future missions to Mars which, according to NASA, could happen well within the next two decades.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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