Just around the corner

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The barrier between mankind and space is not determined by distance, but rather modern technology. The distances manmade spacecrafts can reach is not the concern; it’s how long we can sustain a crew inside the spacecraft safely that determines how far we explore.

Many NASA affiliates might say the journey to Mars will be one of the most difficult endeavors humanity has ever taken, but with the advancements in technology, especially since Neil Armstrong landed on the moon over four decades ago, it is still mind-boggling how plausible a trip to Mars is now.

Modern technology will help in many areas of our journey to the Martian surface, particularly in advanced life support systems. While supplying the crew with everything they need to survive, NASA must also keep in mind the weight of the cargo necessary to ship back all the samples and data from the mission, while also sustaining a light enough weight to get everything—and most importantly everyone—back home safely.

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One technology that NASA Administrator Charles Bolden pointed out in a recent round table discussion is the advancement in 3-D printing. Unlike nearly 50 years ago when NASA sent packages of “astronaut food” into space, the crew can now print whatever they need to survive, including food.

Also, rather than loading all their materials and waiting for a resupply mission, scientists and engineers at NASA have made it possible for crew members to literally live off the land by making tools, equipment and habitats with Martian dirt or recyclable material, Tracy McMahan of Marshall Space Flight Center stated.

Advancements in technology, like 3-D printing, bring the possibility of mankind venturing to Mars even closer to a reality we will see in our lifetimes. Technologies like this will save NASA from sending extra parts approximately 140 million miles to the crew members. Instead of stalling, that time can be applied to further research and even a quicker return home for our nation’s finest space travelers.

As Bolden said, “The journey is right around the corner.”