It’s been almost 45 years since America was captivated by Neil Armstrong’s first ever step on the Moon. In those 45 years we have made progress within the field of space travel, but not as much progress as many have hoped. Having said this, the last few years have been looking up for both NASA, as well as some private companies working on aerospace technology.
A couple years ago, Bas Lansdorp launched Mars-One, with a promise of sending several individuals to the red planet by 2024. Clearly they have their work cut out for them, and the skeptics likely will be right in assuming that Bas Lansdorp and his team at Mars-One will not reach their goal. That’s not to say it’s impossible though. On a more serious note, NASA this week outlined a 3-step plan to send astronauts to Mars sometime in the 2030’s. NASA’s chief Charles Bolden, speaking at the ‘Humans to Mars’ summit, described such a mission as a necessity.
“If this species is to survive indefinitely we need to become a multi-planet species, we need to go to Mars, and Mars is a stepping stone to other solar systems,” the Times reported Mr. Bolden as saying.
One of the major steps that Bolden outlined had to do with a spacecraft being self reliant. A trip to mars could take anywhere from 8 months to a year. That’s a long time for a crew to survive. Because of this fact, any mission would need to utilize technologies which could make the spacecraft self sufficient as it travels the 54.6 million kilometers to the red planet. One of these technologies, according to Bolden, is 3D printing. Any such mission would have to rely heavily on 3D printing technology, in order to reduce cargo, while providing astronauts the ability to have thousands of parts at their disposal.
3D printing is so important, that if any mission to Mars were to succeed, additive manufacturing technology would be one of the keys. This is why NASA is working diligently to perfect 3D printers in space, and in fact plans on sending a printer to the International Space Station next month. The technology for a versatile 3D printer, capable to printing highly accurate objects in zero to low gravity situations, may still be in the works. However, tests which will be run by NASA later this year are a major step in the right direction.
Any manned mission to mars would likely be seen as man’s greatest accomplished. Such a mission will not be easy, but with the right planning, sophisticated technology, and highly skilled and trained individuals, such a mission is more than just a possibility. Discuss how 3D printing may one day play an important role in both getting astronauts to Mars, as well as helping them survive once on the planet.
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