3-D Printing on Mars
3-D Printing, what is it and what is all of the hubbub? A very simple analogy of 3-D printing would be if you imagine a regular printer, printing ink onto paper and going back and forth layering the ink on the paper thousands of times until you build up a three dimensional object. When a 3-D printer is in action, it may use a variety of different types of “ink”, including types of plastic, cement, and just about any material that has a liquid viscosity that later dries and hardens. This technology is widely considered to be a game changer for everything from daily life to manufacturing and construction. Almost anything can be printed with the correct type of printer and “ink”. For example, if you are missing a vital piece of plastic for your washing machine, as long as you can acquire a digital copy, by scanning the object or downloading it, you can send that information to the printer and voilà, your washer is now easy to fix. A variety of different types of three dimensional printing machines are now available. The prices vary dramatically. Some home use printers are as inexpensive as $300. Commercial printers can range from $10,000 to $20,000.
The public has been inundated with news regarding humans to Mars over the past couple of years. So many organizations are planning trips to Mars that it can be confusing. See blog #25, The Many Plans for Mars. However, this can be good news for everyone. The more awareness that is being raised, the more education will be sought. This situation will lend itself to one or more of these organizations being successful. The implications for the human exploration and settlement of Mars are immense. Humanity will change in a way that cannot be undone. We will never be the same once we are an interplanetary species.
Dr. Robert Zubrin, President of The Mars Society, has stated that we must use the resources that are available to us on the Red Planet in order to survive and thrive. This is extremely important since every pound of material we launch from Earth will be very expensive, approximately $50,000. So we must live off the land, as much as we possibly can in order to reduce the cost of the mission. 3-D printers can use the Martian soil to print homes, buildings for humans to live and work in, and other essential infrastructure for a society. With the correct additives to the soil and water, which is already present in the soil, 3-D printing should be a breeze on Mars.
A variety of sizes and types of 3-D printers can be used on Mars. Equipment, furniture, and other daily essentials can be printed from the resources already present on the Red Planet. If your 3-D printer needs a part, you can print it! This technology will help make human settlement on Mars much more doable. With so many organizations and companies have plans to send humans to Mars to live permanently, we must utilize all of the technology available to make the transition from Earthling to Martian as simple as possible.
Video link from The Science Channel about 3-D printing on Mars:
[Images: gizmodo.com, space.com]