Because the orbits of both Mars and the Earth are not perfectly spherical (sorry Aristotle), there is a time during which Mars is a mere 55 million miles away, and were we to attempt a manned mission to the planet, it could be expected to take between six and eight months to arrive. To put that in perspective, that is similar to the amount of time that the astronauts spend at the International Space Station, but it’s still a doozy of a trip, since that’s just the getting there. And that doesn’t even begin to express the difficulties of such a mission once astronauts actually arrive at the planet. It’s not something to be taken lightly and it will require years of careful research and preparation in order to confidently send humans on such a trip.The latest round of exploratory experiments are being conducted by a team of six astronauts from the Austrian Space Forum (OeWF) who have been dropped off in the Dhofar desert in Oman to live in conditions closely simulating those believed to be what they would experience during time on Mars. Of course, this simulation is minus the six to eight months of travel that would be wearing on the astronauts by the time of their arrival, but it should still provide useful information as humans continue to improve their Mars travel plans.
The 120-square-mile site was chosen because of its Martian appearance and the fact that it will allow the astronauts to be completely isolated from any traces of outside human civilization. While there, in addition to the everyday acts of survival, the team will be carrying out 19 experiments that are likely similar to those that researchers would wish to have carried out on Mars. Even a test run for this test run was necessary and has already been completed back in Innsbruck, which, I might add, is much more refined and beautiful than the surface of an alien planet. Awaiting the team, already in the desert are two shipping containers, the team’s space suits, and nearly five tons of equipment. The simulation aims to be as true to life as possible and details such as the ten-minute delay time that will be present when sending messages from Mars to Earth have already been built into the simulation. In an interview with Gulf News, Analog Astronaut and Deputy Field Commander at OeWF Joao Lousada described what they will be examining in the field:
“We will perform 19 different experiments that will help us prepare for a future mission to the red planet, coming a step closer to leaving the first footprints on Mars. The experiments range from growing microgreens in the greenhouse to DNA sequencing supported by rovers that will be undertaken over the four-week mission. We would need to live in isolation since we are talking about several months of travel each way, with little contact with Earth and in a small, closed space with the crew members.”
Among the experiments to be undertaken is one exploring the way in which 3D printing can support such a necessarily self-contained mission to an environment in which nearly everything needed will have to be fabricated with little infrastructure for doing so. The advanced manufacturing technology has been part of space exploration and its ability to fabricate, on demand, a wide variety of objects with great facility lends it naturally to missions where the amount of equipment that can reasonably be carried is so limited and the needs of the crew impossible to predict with absolute certainty. As Lousada explained:
“Among the 19 experiments, 3D printing will be crucial for future human missions to Mars. As part of our junior researches program ‘A3DPT’, it will allow us to print tools and parts during the mission.”
In a situation where multi-tasking resources are so vital and external help impossible to receive, the fact that 3D printers can be relatively easily built and maintained and directed to address needs as they arise makes it an ideal tool for such exploration. Experiments with the technology on the International Space Station continue to provide true-to-life information about the ways in which the technology can function in space, and information gathered during this simulation will only continue to add to our understanding of how 3D printing can advance something as extraordinary as a trip to another planet.
What do you think of this news? Let us know your thoughts; join the discussion of this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below.
You May Also Like
3D Printing Webinar and Event Roundup: September 12, 2021
Buckle your seatbelts, it’s going to be a busy week of webinars and events, both virtual and in-person! RAPID + TCT and FABTECH will both be held in-person this week...
Sixth Bioprinting Acquisition in One Year from Cellink Parent Company BICO
Pioneering bioprinting firm Cellink, now part of a larger company rebranded as BICO (short for bioconvergence), has already been making quite a name for itself and is preparing to capture...
Complete Tumor 3D Printed to Facilitate Faster Treatment Prediction
There are more than 120 different types of brain tumors, many of which are cancerous, but the deadliest, and sadly most common, is the aggressive, fast-growing glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), a...
3D Printing Webinar and Event Roundup: August 15th, 2021
From convincing your professor they need a 3D printer and the future of static mixers to biomaterials and bioprinting, we’ve got another week of webinars and events to tell you...
View our broad assortment of in house and third party products.