NASA’s manned mission to Mars will need a way to build habitats and other structures on the Red Planet. The U.S. National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA) has plans for a mission to Mars in the 2030s and the SpaceX company can do it by 2024, according to entrepreneur Elon Musk. But they will need to build someplace for astronauts to live, sleep, and work to succeed this mission.
Now, scientists from Northwestern University said that they have manufactured a recipe for Martian concrete predicting the day when explorers may construct colonies on the Red Planet.
But considering the average distance between Earth and Mars that is 225 million km of space, pulling building materials would be a nightmare. Launching a kilogram of material to low Earth orbit and many times that amount to send it to Mars, will cost about $4,000. So shipping tons of concrete would be logistically very difficult and financially destructive suggests Robert P. Mueller, senior technologist for advanced products development at the Swamp Works, an innovation laboratory he co-founded at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
Mueller said that asteroid collisions placed the material all over the solar system over billions of years which they have found on Mars is regolith, a dusty, pulverized rock layer. We just need to develop the technology to use that ready-made construction material. The team is working on finding a way to turn the stuff into a substance suitable for three-dimensional printing.
Three-dimensional printing can also create structures with shapes and thinness and this new manufacturing technique would allow NASA to send robots ahead of any colonists to pre-engineered habitats. The most challenging thing is to develop a building material that is compliant with 3-D printing.
Mueller stated that, instead of planning for a specific mission, the current work is running to prove the technology is feasible.