NASA's Revolutionary Plan to 3D Print a Mars Colony

Thursday, 30 November 2017 - 11:26AM
Space
Mars
Technology
Yes
Thursday, 30 November 2017 - 11:26AM
NASA's Revolutionary Plan to 3D Print a Mars Colony
Image credit: NASA
In the race to colonize Mars, getting there might be the easy part. We've never had a real solution for building a Mars colony due to the planet's hostile environment—but that all changed today.

The future is set and there is no turning back now—one way or another, mankind is going to colonize Mars. The technology is being developed and the numbers are being crunched, so all we have to do is wait for someone to tweet the link to the launch livestream.

A team at NASA is busy working with USC engineering professor Behrokh Khoshnevis on a plan to 3D print the habitat where the first Earth-born Martians will live.

Contour Crafting is quicker than the 3D-printers you're used to, with the ability to construct a 2,500-square-foot building in less than 24 Earth hours.

Khoshnevis introduced the technology back in 2004 and began working with NASA on the project in 2011.

In 2016, he took first place in NASA's In-Situ Materials Challenge, demonstrating the ability to 3D printing using powder-like materials in zero gravity (Selective Separation Sintering).

In a piece for CNN, Khoshnevis spoke about the project, the issues they are facing, and when he thinks it will all come together.

"When I read about the moon and Mars—the conditions, the habitats—I realized that almost all of the existing ideas involved taking materials and components from Earth and building with those materials," Khoshnevis wrote. "Taking 1 kilogram of material from Earth to the moon would cost hundreds of thousands dollars. It was clear to me that these ideas were not economically viable."

He proposed building structures on the Moon and Mars using the materials that are already there, but admitted that getting the construction equipment there will not be easy. "We will have to place the construction machines inside the payload compartment of a rocket. 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." 



Khoshnevis added that robots will play a big role in the plan, because of the "hostile" construction environments. "Of course, humans will try to control (robotic) construction on Mars from Earth. And in the case of the moon, some control is possible—we can tell the robotics what to do. But on Mars, because the distance from Earth is so far...you don't have real-time controls. There is a big delay."

As for when these colonies will be erected, Khoshnevis said that "building in space is going to become commonplace in less than 50 years. There's an abundance of energy and materials (in space)—all we have to do is design self-replicating factories and build a lot of objects. In a short time, our capability to manufacture in space will be many times what we can do on Earth."

Fifty years may sound like a long time, but that's nothing compared to the centuries our descendants will soon spend ruining another planet.
Science
NASA
Space
Mars
Technology
NASA's Revolutionary Plan to 3D Print a Mars Colony
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