What is ISRU, and How Will it Help Human Space Exploration?

As Artemis 1 prepares for its maiden launch with the goal of putting astronauts back on the Moon’s surface within the next few years, the next question is how will astronauts live and survive its surface? Will we constantly ferry all the necessary supplies such as water and food from Earth, or could astronauts learn to survive on their own? These are questions that a discipline known as ISRU hopes to answer both now and in the years to come. But what is ISRU, and how will it help advance human space exploration as we begin to slowly venture farther away from the only home we’ve ever known?

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With Martian air, Dirt, and Sunshine, It Should be Possible to Make Iron on Mars

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An artist concept of base infrastructure on Mars. Early habitats will be brought to Mars, but permanent infrastructure could be created using local materials. Credit: NASA

When the first humans reach Mars, they’ll probably live in habitats that were there ahead of time or in habs made from their landers. Eventually, though, if people are going to settle on Mars in large numbers, they’ll need to become self-sufficient. A group of researchers at Swinburne University in Melbourne, Australia is looking at ways to make it happen. Their goal is in-situ resource utilization on the planet for solutions to building out the materials needed for Mars cities. They’ve come up with a proposal to produce metals for use on Mars, using only what’s available on the planet. It’s the first detailed study of its kind focused on metal production at another world. It has further implications for colonies on the Moon, as well.

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Chitin Could be the Perfect Building Material on Mars

An artist's illustration of a Mars settlement. Image: Bryan Versteeg/MarsOne
An artist's illustration of an early Mars settlement. Credit: Bryan Versteeg/MarsOne

It’s hard to deny that we’re heading for a future with a human presence on Mars. But to develop sustained presence, there are an enormous number of technical problems to be worked out. One of those problems concerns manufacturing and building.

We can’t send everything people will need to Mars. We’ll need some way to build structures, and tools and other things.

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