The SSI Mars team seeks to push the boundaries of crewed space missions and pave the way for permanent settlement of Mars and other celestial bodies. Our projects are centered on in situ resource utilization (ISRU), a broad group of technologies which make use of the scant resources on Mars for long-term surface missions. We turn Martian air and soil into fuel and concrete, eliminating the need to launch everything from Earth. At the same time, ISRU technologies can sustainably produce fuel and building materials for use on Earth, making our work a crucial step in fighting climate change. If we learn to live on the Red Planet, we can also save the blue one!
IN SITU RESOURCE UTILIZATION (ISRU)
ISRU is focused on identifying sources of needed elements and materials from one’s immediate surroundings. For example, while the Martian surface is barren and desolate, its carbon dioxide atmosphere provides a source of carbon and oxygen while subsurface water ice provides a source of oxygen and hydrogen. Using electrocatalysis powered by solar panels, these two sources allow for the formation of breathable O2, methane for fueling rocket engines, and carbon monoxide for syngas. Meanwhile, Martian soil can be used as an aggregate base for concrete as well as a source for sulfur and basaltic minerals, whose significance is described in the featured projects below, Mars Bricks and Tractor.
The bricks subteam experiments with methods of turning Martian and lunar soil into building materials for habitats and other structures. The team works with biopolymer-bound soil composite (BSC), which is made of soil, protein binder, and water. BSC has similar compressive strength as Portland cement concrete, the world’s most common construction materia! While concrete production accounts for about 8% of global CO2 emissions, BSC provides a possible carbon-neutral alternative and is also easy to produce from Martian resources. The team is currently designing a prototype device to autonomously produce BSCbricks.
The tractor subteam is designing and constructing an autonomous roving vehicle that goes hand in hand with the Bricks Team machine. When astronauts reach the surface of Mars, their time would be best spent on tasks that require a human touch. To save them time on manual labor, the vehicle, dubbed Mars Tractor, will gather soil, deposit said soil into the Bricks machine, and manipulate produced bricks to construct simple structures like walls and roads!
MARTIAN MISSION SIMULATION
Are you passionate about humans being an interplanetary species? Do you like thinking about scenarios and ways things could happen, and even apply that to space? Have no CS experience at all but want to help us build the simulation? We have a place just for you at the Simulations Team! We will be offering basic Python programming courses as well as sessions with Adam Raudonis, an AI engineer at Tesla, and a former SSI member, to talk to us about Python in simulations and help us understand what has gone in the project so far! Want to contribute in non-CS ways? We need people like you to help us brainstorm scenarios, document procedures, write papers, and perform research experiments to help us gather more data that will make our simulation better! In the Marsim subteam, there is a place for everyone whatever they want to do! The Mars team is the latest addition to the SSI community. Join us in starting this adventure! We are always open to new ideas for exciting projects that help us move toward our mission. Some ideas to pursue as the team move forward include automated landing pad construction, Martian wind energy, and electrocatalysis for fixation of the Martian atmosphere into useful chemical feedstocks and materials.
The Mars team is the latest addition to the SSI community. Join us in starting this adventure! We are always open to new ideas for exciting projects that help us move toward our mission. Some ideas to pursue as the team move forward include automated landing pad construction, Martian wind energy, and electrocatalysis for fixation of the Martian atmosphere into useful chemical feedstocks and materials.
HOW TO JOIN:
Join SSI, hop on the slack, and join #mars, #mars-sims, #mars-bricks, and #mars-tractor.
Feel free to ping @rahma or @kylie on Slack or email them at (firstname.lastname@example.org) or (email@example.com) if you have any questions or just want to chat!
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