Process and control today | Will there ever be human life on Mars? Automation Technologies to Support Humans on the Red Planet


NASA’s Perseverance rover just announced his first collection of samples within a year after landing. Advances like this make the idea of ​​sending humans to Mars by 2030 seem highly achievable, but it’s with the help of major technological breakthroughs that these are possible. Here, Neil Ballinger, EMEA manager at the automation parts supplier EU Automationexplains how automation technologies are helping to revolutionize the idea of ​​humans on Mars.

Mars has always been one of the top priorities for astronauts to research and consider a potential human transition to this planet. Due to its similarities to Earth in terms of size, tilt, structure, composition, and even the presence of water, human life could be sustained on the Red Planet, using technology and smart tools. But what are the challenges to overcome before this becomes a reality? And how can automation help?

Improved exploration missions

As in manufacturing, the machines used in NASA explorations must be small, versatile and smart. The new Perseverance rover inherits some of its design from the Curiosity rover, but has added developments to improve entry, landing and descent operations. For example, the new rover uses a tool called MOXIE, located inside the body of the machine, which uses test technology that converts carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere into oxygen. More innovative, the rover is also supported by the Ingenuity helicopter, a small autonomous rotorcraft that will test powered flight on Mars for the first time.

In addition to these innovative technologies, the rover is also equipped with improved sensor capabilities, new descent cameras and microphones for better territory documentation. Not only will this allow the machine to reach more scientifically important places, but it will also reduce the two-year travel time between Earth and Mars to one.

These developments in machine exploration will help pave the way for future robotic and human missions to Mars, but they will also yield invaluable information for eventual human existence on the planet.

Food systems

Once all the crucial information has reached Earth, preparations can begin for a food system on Mars. If humans are ever to reach Mars, they will need to generate a stable supply of food, as resupplying Earth’s resources would be very impractical and expensive. Mars is covered in regolith, an arid material toxic to humans. Also, water exists only in the form of ice and due to the low atmospheric pressure, plants could not grow.

One solution is to set up an automated facility called a biofoundry that can test millions of DNA designs to find microbes that can be re-engineered to support human nutrition. This requires an ingenious combination of biology and engineering with areas of automation and computation. Such an advanced facility would expedite ways to sustain crops on Mars and improve photosynthesis and photoprotection for plants to thrive.

While this solution will be crucial for the success of human life on Mars, it will also contribute to the development of food on Earth to cope with the agricultural consequences of climate change.

New technological developments bring the idea of ​​Mars colonization closer to reality. For humans to reach the Red Planet in less than a decade, extensive preparations must be made. From enhancing exploration capabilities with advanced tools to designing smart facilities to create food, automation is essential to their success.

Although EU Automation is currently unable to deliver automation parts to Mars, we are shipping worldwide as soon as possible. This helps manufacturers and engineers around the world to complete their projects and find innovative solutions for Martian life.

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