Feeds

Engineering students design tent for camping on Mars

Meteor and radiation proof, less need to drink own urine

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Student engineers in the States say they've built the perfect tent for camping on Mars. The inflatable habitat podule is apparently radiation-proof and tough enough that pesky meteors simply bounce off it: and it features a lightweight Sabatier reactor capable of producing water from the Martian atmosphere.

"One of the big issues, in terms of a manned mission to Mars, is creating living quarters that would protect astronauts from the elements – from radiation to meteorites," says textile engineering undergrad Brent Carter of North Carolina State uni. "Currently, NASA uses solid materials like aluminum, fiberglass and carbon fibers, which while effective, are large, bulky and difficult to pack within a spacecraft."

Carter and his fellow embryonic engineers from the textiles and aerospace departments have fashioned a 1900 square foot tent which includes Demron radiation-proof fabric of the sort used in protective suits and gold metallicised film to reflect various harmful spectra such as UV away from the interior. It is also airtight, allowing it to be inflated with a breathable atmosphere. According to an NCSU statement:

The space is dome-shaped, which will allow those pesky meteors, prone to showering down on the red planet, to bounce off the astronauts' home away from home without causing significant damage.

Apart from radiation and meteorites – generally judged to be serious enough issues on Mars that many planners consider that manned landings should be made near handy caves – the student engineers tackled another issue of life on the red planet: that of providing water.

One means of producing water in sufficient quantities – and other useful things such as methane fuel for ships lifting off from the Martian surface, plus oxygen for the ships and for the explorers to breathe – is the Sabatier reaction, named for the Nobel Prize-winning chemist who discovered it. A Sabatier reactor is already at work in space, supplying extra water for the crew of the International Space Station to supplement supplies from the station's famously buggy urine recycling system.

However existing Sabatier reactors are unacceptably heavy, according to the NCSU students. In particular the nickel catalyst, generally installed in the form of metal pellets, could use improvement. Thus the Mars camping team also brought out a new fibre material to which they applied a coating of nickel nanoparticles, so offering the same active surface area with much less weight.

The students intend to enter their Mars tent and improved Sabatier reactor in NASA's Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts Academic Linkage (RASCAL) competition next month.

Previous NCSU students designed an inflatable Moon tent along similar lines a couple of years back, but President Obama has since nixed the idea of a manned return to the lunar surface. However boots on Mars remains an aspiration of the US space programme, so the redesign – or elements of it – might see service on the red planet one day.

The earliest that most analysts can envision a manned Mars mission setting out is at some point probably well into the 2030s, however, so it would seem that Carter and his fellow Martian camping aficionados will probably be well into their 40s by the time they see their kit fly. ®

Remote control for virtualized desktops

More from The Register

next story
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
HUMAN DNA 'will be FOUND ON MOON' – rockin' boffin Brian Cox
Crowdfund plan to stimulate Blighty's space programme
Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg
Off to the boozer? This delicacy might help mitigate the effects
I'M SO SORRY, sobs Rosetta Brit boffin in 'sexist' sexy shirt storm
'He is just being himself' says proud mum of larger-than-life physicist
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.