UCF scientists working on process to turn Martian soil into extraterrestrial building materials – WFTV Orlando

by: Cuthbert Langley
Updated: Feb 28, 2017 – 4:12 PM

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – When astronauts make the more than 200 million-mile trek to the red planet, one of the first things they will need to do is start building on the Martian surface.

The problem is, logistically getting the materials they will need from Earth to Mars is nearly impossible.

That’s where a group of scientists at the University of Central Florida come it with a set of experiments that aim to turn Martian soil into tools and building materials.

Using information from the Curiosity Rover, which is currently on Mars, Dr. Sudipta Seal and his team have developed mock Martian soil and are looking at different ways to shape and mold it.

“Before you get there, you have to try it on our planet,” Seal said.

The team boils the soil down to its purest metal form and then uses a 3-D printer to create the tools that astronauts will need.

They have also developed a process to make bricks by spinning soil for 24 hours and then leaving it to harden in molds for three weeks.

UCF scientists aren’t able to make large bricks yet, but hope to continue their experiments until they find a way to use Martian resources to make nearly everything future colonists will need.

Ph.D. student Kevin Grossman said the reason astronauts are unable to take material with them is because it costs about $10,000 to transport one kilogram into space.

“We want to fly lean and mean,” he said. “We want to take exactly what’s necessary.”

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