Rubber & Elastomer Development for MArtian enviRonmental applicationS (RED 4 MARS)
Today, the dream of Mars colonization is closer to come true than has ever been in human history. We can expect the first human crew to land on Mars within the next 20 years and set the foundations for future colonies. But, have you ever wondered how the transportation system will look like on Mars? Will people use individual cars, or it would be rather railway-based public transport?
In any case, vehicles used for moving people around need to assure a proper level of safety and comfort. To achieve this, several structural elements are used to provide elastic and damping properties like tires, engine mounts, bushings, or dampers. The main component of all these elements assuring a satisfactory performance on earth is rubber. Rubber is a special type of polymer composite based on long macromolecules facilitating viscoelastic behavior. Many other ingredients are added to rubber to improve its properties like fillers, antioxidants, curatives, and processing aids. By choosing an appropriate rubber composition one can tailor its properties for very specific applications. Here, a question arises: Can we use this “terrestrial” rubber also on Mars? No – like a human cannot survive on Mars without any further protection, rubber cannot do this as well. Therefore – how to protect the rubber?
The Martian environment differs significantly from the conditions we know on Earth. The daily temperature range is much higher due to the thin atmosphere and the temperatures can drop to -140°C. The Mars surface is constantly bombarded by particulate and UV radiation because Mars doesn’t have a magnetosphere and a protective ozone layer. Also, abrasive dust storms are frequent on Mars surface. Therefore, to fulfill the requirements of the Martian environment, the rubber used on its surface needs to be properly designed.
RED 4 MARS project aims to develop rubber that will withstand Martian conditions to enable an exploration of its surface as a basis for future colonization and to provide safety and comfort for the future Martian transportation system. Based on this, the designed rubber could be utilized in many related applications like Martian suits, shoes, cable covers, inflatable structural elements, and sealing gaskets.
This project is financed by EU Marie Skłodowska Curie Action: Global Fellowship. Grant No. 101025756