Packing for Mars

July 6, 2011

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Travelers to Mars will need protection from radiation and meteorites. But they’ll have to pack light. The aluminum, fiberglass and carbon fibers used today are too heavy for long-term space travel.

To protect future space travelers, NC State students have designed a 1,900-square-foot inflatable living environment for four to six astronauts.

It’s made with advanced textiles, including layers of radiation-shielding materials like those in nuclear safety suits, a polyurethane substrate to hold in air and a metallic film to reflect UV rays. The inflatable dome could deflect meteor showers, which are common on the Red Planet.

Students also tackled another major challenge for a manned mission to Mars: water. They’ve redesigned the Sabatier reactor, which uses gases to produce water in space, to make it lighter and more compact.

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