Operational Benefit and Applicability of a 3D Printer in Future Human Mars Missions - Results from Analog Testing Conference Paper uri icon


  • © 2018, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Inc, AIAA. All rights reserved. The remote nature of human missions to Mars requires a different paradigm for how operations should be performed. In particular, there is a need for greater independence from Earth, and the ability to adapt to evolving scenarios: needs that can potentially be assisted by integrating 3D printing technology into a Mars mission. A 3D printer can enable the production, repair and modification of tools on Mars to address needs that arise. A series of experiments were carried out on the AMADEE-18 Mars Analog Simulation to investigate the potential benefit of integrating a printer into operations. AMADEE-18 was a two-week-long activity which provided a high fidelity test environment, including communication delays between simulated Mars and Earth. The experiments involved production, repair and modification of custom-designed geological sampling tools using a 3D printer inside the Mars habitat. A set of modular procedures were used to integrate 3D printing into the flight plan and compare the operational performance between Earth-led and Mars-led operations. 17 planned printing runs were complete, with execution times recorded, and subjective feedback collected. The results showed the difficulty in scheduling 3D printing operations, which require numerous small tasks spread out over an extended period. It was identified that Earth-Led operations were superior with regards to crew workload, as they provided a more convenient way to manage the small, infrequent tasks required. In addition to the planned prints, there were 13 unplanned prints completed, including a clip for an EVA suit, showing the adaptability and utility granted by a 3D printer. The geological sampling tool used in the experiments was a hybrid of printed plastic and high quality printed metal produced on “Earth”. This hybrid design was shown to be successful and presents an avenue for future research.

author list (cited authors)

  • Müller, M., Coen, M., Kim, D., Campbell, R., Gruber, S., Brady, M., ... Chamitoff, G.

citation count

  • 2

publication date

  • May 2018