After the ‘Man on Moon’ saga, ‘Man on Mars’ appears to be our next likely astronomical achievement as NASA and other corporations are bent on transporting humans to Mars in the not-so-distant future. However, after skyrocketing for three quarters of the year, astronauts might not have to build their own bases as 3D printers that could address the purpose are now being developed.
Behrokh Khoshnevis from the University of Southern California is a NASA engineer who has been working on a specific type of robots (Source: IFL Science). These robots have the capability to extrude concrete and 3D print entire buildings. Khoshnevis is presently working towards taking the implementation of the technology in Mars.
The method that Khoshnevis uses to 3D print buildings has been popularly termed “contour crafting". The application is largely similar to traditional methods of 3D printing. However, the machines will be expectedly very large in size. But instead of printing plastic, like in common 3D printing machines, these machines will be printing concrete. This also comes across as the biggest challenge in successful application of the technology.
While recipes for the concrete might vary, the general consistency is generally made of little rocks, sand aggregate, a cement binding material, some chemical additives and material that has been recycled. Martian soil has a lot of sulfur, almost 400 percent of that on earth. The concrete consistency will have to adjusted in accordance to this sulfur content.
The lack of a definitive atmosphere and very low gravity in the red planet bode well for the construction on Mars. The buildings will not have to withstand very strong winds or excessive gravitational pulls of the planet. Once built, the infrastructure on Mars could stand for several many years.
Some of the first infrastructure that will be built on the Martian soil include roads, landing pads, shade walls, dust-free platforms, and thermal protection shields among others. Aside, NASA also plans to build similar infrastructure on the surface of the moon.
One of the chief problems that NASA is supposed to face in the proposed building of the infrastructure is finding fine sand (Name: IGN). While Earth sand has gone through several years of corrosion, Mars or the Moon lack wind and water elements that could make the sand finer. Larger sand particles may not immix well with the other constituents in concrete and the problem is common to both Mars and Moon. Research on how to come over the problem is being carried out.