The Real Space Saver: NC State Students Look To Support Manned Mission To Mars North Carolina State University

What would it take to make a manned mission to Mars a reality? A team of aerospace and textile engineering students from North Carolina State University believe part of the solution may lie in advanced textile materials. The students joined forces to tackle life-support challenges that the aerospace industry has been grappling with for decades.
“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 student Brent Carter. “Currently, NASA uses solid materials like aluminum, fiberglass and carbon fibers, which while effective, are large, bulky and difficult to pack within a spacecraft.”
Using advanced textile materials, which are flexible and can be treated with various coatings, students designed a 1,900-square-foot inflatable living space that could comfortably house four to six astronauts. This living space is made by layering radiation-shielding materials like Demron™ (used in the safety suits for nuclear workers cleaning up Japan’s Fukushima plant) with a gas-tight material made from a polyurethane substrate to hold in air, as well as gold-metalicized film that reflects UV rays – among others. 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.