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Bee Family Rover: who will build a human settlement on Mars

Social media talk every day more and more about the numerous lunar and martian habitat projects, starting from those signed by Archistars, such as Bjarke Ingels or Norman Foster, to those by major space agencies, such as NASA, ESA, and the increasingly emerging Space X, led by Elon Musk.

We have therefore found that the whole world is moving towards bringing humanity to another planet. But how to get to the realization of beautiful projects that are shown to us every day? How will this be possible? Will a man be able to build his own “home” as he does on Earth?

Team Archimars will reveal to you what is behind their project for the first human settlement on Mars, Hive Mars.

Read more: The 5 reasons to colonize Mars

The interplanetary project

The first and main thing to consider is human safety. For this, our team organized a robotic mission before the arrival of a man, which includes the landing of the Bee Family Rovers on Mars, on July 2031.

On top of the habitat and infrastructure design, the design team focused on the construction sequence, outlining appropriate surface elements to support the construction. This role is performed by the Bee Family Rover. The design of each machine is inspired by Epigenetic-based insects, belonging to the Apidae family, a particular genetic characteristic that allows insects with the same DNA to evolve in different physical features, designed to fit their role in hive societies.

The Bee Family Rover

consists of eight machines. In order of arrival we find:

  • Spider Explorer, designed to explore and analyze the outpost area to define the site conditions and resources localization;
  • Bee Flattener, which main task is of leveling the construction area to avoid unevenness in the ground that compromise the structural integrity of the habitats;
  • Bee Excavator, will collect the regolith for the construction from the top layer of soil;
  • Bee Transporter, used to move the construction material around the building site;
  • Bee Processor, that has the task of processing the regolith into building material;
  • Bee 3D Printer, is a printer with a three-axis mechanical arm capable of building the outer shell of the housing modules through additive manufacturing process;
  • Bee Lifter, is  used to  lift, transport, and place the prefabricated assets;
  • Archimars Pressurized Rover, to be used by the crew for the exploration activities and transportation between the different outpost areas.

First of all, the Spider Explorer probes the entire area to ensure that the required requirements are met. Subsequently, the Bee Flattener rover flattens the road network, ISRU production area, energy production area, where the Kilopower and solar panels will be placed by the Bee Transporter rover, and construction area. In this way, the Bee Excavator and Bee Transporter rovers reach the ISRU area where water extraction, oxygen production, and regolith collection activities take place. The extracted regolith is processed inside the Bee Processor and transferred to the Bee 3D Printer rover that proceeds with the construction of the protective wall of the landing area, roads, and the habitat. The Bee Lifter rover instead provides for the positioning of the architectural elements to be inserted during the construction phases of the habitats.

The 3D printing technology

But, precisely, what are the procedures for building an entire settlement on a human scale through the use of 3D printing technology on Mars?

First of all, to reduce the mass and launch costs, it is necessary to anticipate the widespread use of local raw materials in the production of resources necessary for sustenance (water, oxygen, energy) and the production of construction materials, mainly obtained using Martian regolith.

Printing inks are made of this material, which consists of three main components: the powder, the elastomeric binder, and a mixture of solvents. The powder, previously examined, occupies 70–75% of the volume of the mortar while 25–30% of the volume is occupied by PLGA, an elastomeric polymer based on organic acids.

Instead, the mixture of solvents, easily available in situ, includes the majority of the volatile solvent dichloromethane (DCM); lower amounts of 2-butoxyethanol (2-Bu), a surfactant that mitigates and cancels the electrostatic and steric interactions between suspended particles and dibutyl phthalate (DBP), a plasticizer that improves the flow properties of dissolved PLGA and further inhibits the interaction of the particle during the flow.

After thickening, through evaporation of the excess DCM, a 3D printable consistency is obtained at a linear deposition rate of 1–150 mm / s.

All the elements used for the preparation of the regolith mortar can be recycled. The polymer, PLGA, can be synthesized from biologically derived lactic and glycolic acids.

It could be used to process and recycle unrelated organic wastes, such as urine and plant waste, into PLGA and similar elastomer-derived bio-waste. Optionally, the 3D printed elastic structures could potentially be transformed, by sintering, from solid form into gas, water, hydrocarbons, and into diatomic oxygen and hydrogen by electrolytic methods. Finally, the sintered regolith structures could be pulverized into primordial regolith powders, which could be used to create new regolith inks for 3D printing.

The entire process

Stages of printing the outer casing

Transform the regolith into Martian mortar or cement takes place inside the Bee Processor rover and subsequently transferred to the Bee 3D Printer rover which performs the printing of the external structure. The printer technology uses the “additive” principle of depositing the material by layers.

The rover is equipped with a mechanical arm adjusted through a numerical control mechanism and it performs two types of movements: a circular one, along the x and y axes, and a vertical one, along the z-axis, following the deposition of the various layers.

The nozzle, located at the upper end of the arm, has a diameter of 0.14m and is heated to melt the regolith mortar.

Once the printing material has been obtained, comparable to the cement used in terrestrial construction, excavation of the habitat area for the foundations begins, proceeding with printing by layers first of the same, then of the ogival dome; the interruption of the printing allows to insert the connection airlocks and the windows, arranged on axes of 120 ° alternating.

Once construction is complete, the Bee Lifter rover inserts the unfolded inflatable living module from the upper cavity, which is, in turn, closed at the top by a truncated pyramid-shaped skylight that hermetically seals the interior.

After the printing material is obtained, comparable to the cement used in terrestrial construction, the excavation of the habitat area for the foundations begins, continuing with the printing of layers. After the foundation has been printed it continues with printing of external ogival structure.

The interruption of the printing allows inserting of the connection airlocks and the windows, arranged on axes of 120 ° alternately. Upon completion of construction, the Bee Lifter rover inserts an unfolded inflatable housing module from the upper cavity, which is closed at the top by the skylight, a truncated pyramidal shape that hermetically seals the interior.

Learn more: 5 reasons you should study Space Architecture

Team ArchiMars

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