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Journey to Mars: The First Ever Mars Colony Might Be 3D Printed From Space Dust

Apr 18, 2017 11:49 AM EDT
NASA Pathfinder Sojourner Rover On Mars
Scientists are already plotting on ways how to colonize Mars in the future.
(Photo : NASA/Getty Images)

Colonizing Mars is still a while away, but it's never too early to start prepping for it. Scientists recently came up with a new technique to 3D-print virtually everything -- from tools to buildings -- using Martian and lunar dust.

According to a report from Northwestern University, Ramille Shah and her Tissue Engineering and Additive Manufacturing (TEAM) Laboratory paved the way by tweaking their "3D painting process," a method they've already used to print a variety of objects including bone and metals.

The project came about because humans would need to start from scratch upon stepping foot on Mars or any other planet.

"For places like other planets and moons, where resources are limited, people would need to use what is available on that planet in order to live," Shah pointed out. "Our 3D paints really open up the ability to print different functional or structural objects to make habitats beyond Earth."

The "3D paints" used in this innovative method is made up of Martian and lunar dust simulants that were approved by NASA. These simulants are extremely similar to the dust actually found on Mars and the moon. The 3D-painted material ends up similar to rubber, being very flexible yet tough. After the painting process, the material can be cut, rolled, folded and molded as needed.

The next step for the researchers is figuring out how to fire the 3D-painted materials in the furnace to make the rubbery objects into hard structures that are more like ceramic.

The research paper was published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.

While it may seem too early to plan for life beyond Earth, many scientists have already set their sights on Mars. NASA's "Journey to Mars" mission is planning to get astronauts to the red planet by the 2030s, recently releasing an updated plan on how they are plotting to do so online.

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