6 advanced technology concepts tailored to (possible) human habitation on Mars

4) 3D Printed Bubble-Shaped Habitation Spaces –

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French company, Fabulous has envisaged a specific form of a Martian habitat that will feature two concentric domes, segregated by pockets of water in between (for protection against harmful solar radiation). Named as the Sfero House, the resultant bubble-shaped structure will comprise two levels connected by a spiral staircase. Now of course, beyond just sounding cool, the term ‘Sfero’ has a special meaning, as it denotes the combination of words sphere, iron and water – with the latter two being the chief ‘usable’ resources found on the Mars surface. In that regard, the designers have envisioned their ‘human habitation on Mars’ project to harvest iron oxide, the mineral compound that endows the planet its characteristic red color.

Consequently, the pod’s basic structure will built using the drilled iron particles, while the water, present in 30-cm-wide pockets between the two metallic shells, is extracted from deep within the Martian soil. According to NASA, around 1.5 to 3-percent of water exists in the planet’s permafrost (or soil that remains below freezing point all through the year) especially in the polar regions. So, a special robotic mechanism shaped like a pole-like automaton, will extract water and iron particles from the soil, with the aid of one of its arms. The other arm extension would incorporate a metal 3D printer that can produce molten iron with the help of a high-powered laser. And after the foundation is built, the robot can proceed on to fabricate the external structure of the Sfero House with the collected raw materials.

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5) Frozen Carbon Dioxide Fueled Engines –

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Researchers from the Northumbria and Edinburgh Universities have devised a prototype mechanism that encompasses carbon fueled engines for Mars. Taking advantage of the physical phenomenon known as Leidenfrost effect, the envisioned engine would actually make use of the dry-ice deposits found on Mars, as opposed to making round trips to Earth for fueling. In other words, it is potentially a sustainable alternative to a conventional scope, and would be dependent on the native resources of the red planet – thus allowing for continued manned missions and even human activities (like colonization) on Mars’ surface.

The Leidenfrost effect in itself pertains to a scenario when a liquid is in contact with a hot surface that has a higher temperature than the liquid’s boiling point. This contact instantly transforms the ‘touching’ layer of the liquid into vapor – which in turn insulates the (still) liquid portion from the heat. For example, when water is dropped into a heated frying pan, the droplets canter around the surface – because of the layer of insulating vapor that allows them to levitate above the pan.

As for the prototype in question, the scientists used a circular block of dry ice above the heated aluminum surface – and the result pertained to the levitating of the block above the aluminum due to the aforementioned cushion of vapor due to Leidenfrost effect. However, the researchers did make one significant change to the experiment. Instead of having a plane surface, they modified the aluminum with circular ridges. This alteration of the surface directly affected the ‘floating’ motion of the dry ice by spinning it in a circular motion (as opposed to longitudinal motion), like a turbine.

The spinning motion in turn was utilized to produce alternating current, with the aid of a system of magnets and copper coils. In essence, the entire contraption acted as an electric motor that generated power from the Leidenfrost effect between the dry ice and heated aluminum. To that end, it should be duly noted – this is the first time in the history of mankind that Leidenfrost effect had been utilized to produce a credible form of energy. And even beyond innovation, this trick may very well play its practical part on the Mars surface, for both vehicular and power needs that could aid the human habitation on Mars.

6) Commercial Resupply Services For Mars Manned Missions –

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Till now, we had been harping about habitats and living conditions on Mars. However, the other part of the equation crucially relates to the transportation and storage systems that could facilitate human habitation on Mars. Regarding the latter scope, NASA had already contemplated a Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) program that will acquire designs of specialized cargo ships for re-supplying ISS and Mars missions. And, Lockheed Martin in collaboration with Thales Alenia (from Italy) and MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates (from Canada), have conceptualized their version of the CRS-2 with a solution. This ‘collective’ solution entails – a cargo container called Exoliner, an orbital vehicle named Jupiter, and a special robotic arm for this Jupiter module.

Delving into a bit of details, the Jupiter will essentially function as a reusable space-servicing vehicle (based on MAVEN). Simply put, it can be ‘parked’ in the orbit, and will act as a payload-transferring vehicle that will aid the cargo containers sent skywards from the station or any planet’s surface. As for Exoliner, the disposable vessel is designed with a cargo-carrier component with a capacity to carry over 14,000 lbs (6,500 kg) of payload. And finally, when it comes to the usage pattern, both the Jupiter and Exoliner could be launched together when attached to an Atlas V rocket. In essence, the collective system can be used for hauling of supplies (like food, fuel and equipment) for deep space missions, or even morphed into an assembled habitable module for expeditionary missions to Mars.

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