The Earth of Mars turns out to be a gold mine. Not that it necessarily contains real gold, but it is of such a structure that researchers think you can 3D print just fine. This means that people who will soon (or well, in many years’ time) set foot on Mars, will only have to take a 3D printer with them instead of all kinds of tools. They simply print those tools on the spot using the red soil that can be found in abundance on Mars.
3D printing tools
In addition to tools, the astronauts on Mars could also print parts, for example, so that they could possibly create the solution themselves in the event of problems. So no The Martian-like scenes needed. Researcher Amit Bandyopadhyay of Washington State University says: “Once we’re on our way to Mars, we can’t go back and pick up something we’ve forgotten. A 3D printer can ensure that something can still be made.”
The researchers were able to reach their conclusion through research on Martian regolith with titanium. Titanium plays an important role, as it is heat resistant and therefore ideal for space. Two mixtures were made: one containing only regolith (a fake variety, that is) and one containing only five percent regolith. These mixes were heated to 2000 degrees with a laser and made into certain shapes. The strength and durability of the mix with a lot of titanium was a bit stronger: regolite turns out to be a bit brittle once it has cooled down. However, it can also work well, such as as a protective layer against rust.
That variant with 5 percent regolite and further titanium was much stronger: it is precisely this mixture with regolite that creates a material that is stronger and better than if you would only use titanium. Now it’s up to the researchers to keep mixing and see what the perfect mix is to create materials on the red planet itself. In addition, a good 3D printer must also be developed to take with us when we as humanity really set foot on the capricious planet.
That will take some time though. Although Elon Musk often talks about it, it will probably be another ten years before we are even close to the goal of that first astronaut on the red planet. That probably wouldn’t be an American either: China hopes to arrive on the planet first. However, it is quite a journey: at the moment a trip to Mars would take about six months to nine months and the question is also how the human body will deal with it.
But, when the time comes, such a 3D printer sounds like a godsend. The Mars Earth could save a lot of money: it is very expensive to take equipment into space. In addition, the weather saves space in the vessel, so that something else can perhaps be taken along. It seems that transporting one kilogram of cargo from Earth to space costs 50,000 euros. You see, so ‘ordinary red soil’ is secretly a gold mine.
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