As NASA continues the preparations for its maiden manned mission to Mars in the 2030s, the emphasis on carrying a minimal amount of payload is growing greater with every passing day. No doubt, this is a rather complicated objective — albeit one that could significantly boost the feasibility of carrying out such missions more frequently in the coming years and decades.
With that in mind, the premier space agency is reportedly trying to find out viable ways to manufacture the goods on Mars rather than carrying them all the way from here on Earth.
Granted, the idea of having manufacturing facilities on the Red Planet currently seems more like a sci-fi concept rather than a scientific and engineering breakthrough. However, that has not stopped NASA from funding two Space Technology Research Institute (STRI) with the hope they would be able to provide the requisite technology that could help its crew to sustain themselves the hostile planet with products created by themselves.
Both these institutes are currently in the process of gathering researchers from an array of disciplines with the goal of building a team that could help figure out how NASA should proceed with its rather ambitious project.
NASA has also promised $15 million to each STRI to assist them in coming up with new technologies for mass producing goods and materials that would be directly beneficial for future manned Mars missions.
Meanwhile, NASA has also joined forces University of Central Florida professor, Sudipta Seal, who will be studying the Martian soil. Seal’s goal will be to identify which useful materials can be dug out and used for the proposed manufacturing purposes (presumably facilitated by 3D Printers).
“It’s essentially using additive-manufacturing techniques to make constructible blocks. UCF is collaborating with NASA to understand the science behind it,” said Seal regarding the research.[Source]