We can 3D print instruments on Mars made of the planet itself — and an exciting experiment could change the future of space travel, according to engineers.
This hack means that future missions will be able to print essentials for repairs like missile parts.
It’s an important discovery because researchers say they can’t get everything into space, and if they forget a tool on a mission they can’t go back to get it.
The study’s authors noted that taking the material out is very expensive: it costs $54,000 to put just one kilogram (2.2 lb) of material into Earth’s orbit.
As a result, researchers at Washington State University in the US believe that 3D printing is a burgeoning field that could be the solution to making space travel cheaper and easier.
The team discovered small amounts of simulated crushed Mars rock, mixed with an alloy of titanium, which made a strong, high-performance material that could be used to make rocket tools and parts on the Red Planet.
They made instruments using between 5% and 100% of Martian regolith, a black powdery substance intended to mimic the inorganic rock material on Mars that can be collected by a robotic arm or rover.
When it came to adding just 5% of Mars dust in the mixture, there were no cracks or bubbles and it was much better than just a titanium alloy.
They believe this combination can be used to build lighter weight pieces that are still capable of carrying heavier loads.
“It gives you a material of better, higher strength and stiffness, so it can perform better in some applications,” The author corresponding to the study said Professor Amit Bandyopadhyay.
Meanwhile, the 100 percent concentrated parts were brittle and cracked easily. However, Professor Bandyopadhyay believes that 100% Martian rock materials would still be great as coatings to protect against rust or radiation damage.
Together with graduate students Ali Afrozian and Kelin Traxl, Bandyobadyai used a powder-based 3D printer to mix fake Martian rocks with alloys of titanium, a metal commonly used in space because it is light, strong and heat-resistant.
Fire a high-powered laser through the material until its temperature reaches 2000°C. Next, the melted mixture flowed into a moving platform where the researchers could create it in different sizes and shapes.
Once it cooled down, they tested it for durability and strength to reveal new and exciting options for space travel.
But more is possible and publish their research In the International Journal of Applied Ceramic Technology, the team believes that there are better formulations to be found using different metals and printing techniques.
“This proves that it is possible, and maybe we should think in that direction because it is not just about making weak plastic parts, but metal-ceramic composite parts that are strong and can be used for any kind of structural part,” Bandyopadhyay added. I worked on similar experiments Using a simulation of crushed moon rocks (lunar regolith) for NASA in 2011.
Since then, space agencies have worked more and more with 3D printing, and the International Space Station now has its own hardware to manufacture the materials they need on site and for experiments.
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