As space agencies around the globe continue to pursue a wide range of activities, manned missions are few and far between. Even President Obama mentioned going to Mars in his State Of the Onion speech, and everyone knows Elon Musk is mentally already there. This is the one clear destination that is on the radar and agenda for space lovers all over the Earth. Objective: a manned mission to Mars.
On our planet, all the planning is happening. One group calling themselves Mars Without Borders (MWOB), founded by Dr. Susan Jewell, recently set out on a simulated mission to test the usefulness of 3D printed instruments and surgical tools in the deserts of Utah.
Matteo Borri, MWOB Crew Engineer, adapted a desktop 3D printer to run on solar power and designed a prototype scalpel blade handle and several prototype parts for fixing “life support systems” on the Red Planet. According to the website, the MWOB Expedition One mission objectives were “to conduct several Medical Extra Vehicular Activity (MEVA), develop and train crews in medical triage and evacuation on a simulated planetary Martian surface located at the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS) in the remote high deserts of Utah.”
The project was an exploration and an attempt to highlight how 3D printing technology could be used during an actual mission to Mars. Of course, this was just an analog simulation at the Mars Analogue Research Station Program, founded by the Mars Society in 1998 as a space advocacy non-profit to promote the exploration and settlement of humans on Mars.
Although the question that MWOB is asking is very forward thinking, it is also very interesting: How will today’s 3D printing technology, which will certainly be different when we reach Mars, be useful to train non-medical teams in telesurgery and simple surgery techniques as the new space race heats up?
Photography Credit: Susan Jewell