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Packing for Mars

Travelers to Mars will need protection from radiation and meteorites. But they’ll have to pack light. The aluminum, fiberglass and carbon fibers used today are too heavy for long-term space travel.

To protect future space travelers, NC State students have designed a 1,900-square-foot inflatable living environment for four to six astronauts.

It’s made with advanced textiles, including layers of radiation-shielding materials like those in nuclear safety suits, a polyurethane substrate to hold in air and a metallic film to reflect UV rays. The inflatable dome could deflect meteor showers, which are common on the Red Planet.

Students also tackled another major challenge for a manned mission to Mars: water. They’ve redesigned the Sabatier reactor, which uses gases to produce water in space, to make it lighter and more compact.

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