NASA’s Plan to 3D Print Homes on Mars

It’s no secret that NASA is working towards a Mars landing within the next couple of decades. In fact, optimistic views on this put a human on Mars in 2030.

NASA has looked at a few options on how to house its astronauts on the unforgiving surface of Mars. One idea was the concept of “Ice Domes“. This concept would combat the intense Martian environment, while still making the place livable. That is: build a dome that is surrounded by ice water to protect against the harmful radiation. The hydrogen in the ice helps to reduce the intensity of the gamma and ultraviolet waves, therefore making it the perfect material to shelter humans in the ruthless Martian environment.

The Martian ice dome concept can be analogous to an inflatable igloo with two layers. The outer layer of the dome would have a thick sheet of ice while the inner layer would provide the astronauts with comfortable shelter.

Though this idea seems great, NASA is currently exploring other means to developing house and one concept takes advantage of the emerging technology of industrial 3D printing. 




In a partnership with Behrokh Khoshnevis, a professor at the University of Southern California, NASA and Mr. Khoshnevis are working together to build a vision for a colony on Mars. 

“I wanted to 3D-print structures using materials on the moon, and later on Mars,” Khoshnevis told CNN. “With my own pocket money, I did some experiments, and purchased materials that looked very similar to the lunar and Martian materials, both in terms of the shapes, and percentage of different oxides — all the characteristics were comparable.”

The professor did note some of the challenges of bringing a 3d printer to Mars and having it work there.

“We will have to place the construction machines inside the payload compartment of a rocket,” he said. “For that, we have to be mindful of the size. It can’t be too large or too heavy. Otherwise, it would need bigger rockets — and the cost of building such a rocket would be pretty significant. But once the compartment has landed on another planet, then its contents can start working autonomously. We don’t want to send human astronauts as construction workers.”

Further, since Mars has much less gravity than Earth, the professor has proposed this solution: 

“The gravity on Mars is a third of that on Earth, and the Moon’s is a sixth. But actually, that’s beside the point because my 3D printing processes don’t depend on gravity. The printers extrude by force, with pressure — like a glue gun. A glue gun doesn’t need gravity. If you push it out upside down, or downside up, the glue still comes out.”




Will this concept become a reality? Only time will tell!

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