With the idea of humans living on Mars coming closer to being a reality, much of the talk centers around how such a civilization would survive. It is one thing to visit a planet and another to live there. Additive manufacturing has been a focal point of the talk around humans living on Mars, for several reasons.
It is highly likely the first homes occupied by humans on Mars would be additive manufactured. Built by robots before those humans arrived, so the area would be ready for them to live in.
A recent study by Marta Flisykowska assesses the impact of humans living on Mars for the long term. It is natural for the body to adapt to differing conditions, as would be experienced on a planet such as Mars.
Impact of Long Stays on Mars
Conditions on Mars would be very different to living on Earth, even when humans are in an enclosed area with the necessary oxygen to survive. The temperatures are colder on Mars, while the atmosphere is less dense. Mars only gets about half the solar energy in its upper atmosphere, compared to Earth. Gravity is different, while the pressure of carbon dioxide on the surface is roughly 50 times greater than Earth.
While humans who live on Mars for five or ten years may not evolve, the impact would be visible several generations later. Some changes could even be made through plastic surgery, as the nose is an easily manipulatable part of the body.
Focusing on the Nose
Flisykowska noticed that it was the nose where most of the changes would occur. It is why she designed the “Who Nose” project, where several prototype noses were 3D printed to show what a possible evolution would look like.
Previous studies have shown that nostrils adapt to the climate where previous generations lived. Someone whose ancestors lived in a warm and humid climate would have much wider nostrils, while someone living in cold and dry climates would have narrower nostrils.
Several of the 3D printed noses are very narrow, even compared to humans who have lived in the coldest climates for generations on Earth. And that is not the only adaptation that Flisykowska foresees.
Some of the possible noses Flisykowska created are extremely unusual, compared to the typical human nose. One possible change is a nose that is very long and features double nostrils. Such a nose would make it much simpler for the humans to warm up the air and relax on the planet.
The more “out there” models from the Who Nose project focus on what could be done through plastic surgery. While it is possible that humans who live on Mars for several generations would develop much narrower noses, a double nostril or flat nose is something that only plastic surgery could provide.
Additive Manufacturing and Aerospace
3D printing is already playing a key role within the aerospace industry. Not only are companies assessing the possibility of 3D printing parts for space shuttles, but it is likely the first homes on Mars will be 3D printed as well.
NASA has put out a 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge, where the agency encouraged teams to build a 3D printed habitat where humans could live if they were on Mars.
The project is already at its final stage, with six teams fighting for the more than $3 million prize if their prototype is selected. NASA has upped the ante with the final round, having the teams print out a realistic sized model of the prototype they have presented.
The concept of humans on Mars may still sound like a sci-fi dream to some. But real steps are being taken to make it a reality in the coming decade. And it is clear that additive manufacturing will be at the forefront of that process.