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MTU To Lead Team To Design New Materials For Manned Mars Missions

Michigan Tech will lead a coalition that may one day help put a man on Mars.

The Space Technology Research Institute will combine the efforts of ten universities, two private companies and the U.S. Air Force Research Lab.

Though this isn’t the first time Michigan Tech has helped with the exploration of space, Professor Greg Odegard says they haven’t done anything of this magnitude before.

“The goal of this particular institute,” Odegard said, “is to develop a new generation of materials for manned-Mars missions and these materials have to be lighter and stronger than any materials that we currently have available.”

The Michigan Tech-led institute is called US-COMP, which stands for Ultra-Strong Composites by Computational Design.

The new materials will be designed by using a computationally-driven approach.

Odegard said, “Instead of using the old fashioned way of developing materials—we “make ‘em and break ‘em” and we keep doing that until something works right—we’re actually going to design these materials in the computational environment and we can do that much cheaper and do it much quicker than we can using the old fashioned approach.”

The institute is being funded by a $15 million grant from NASA.

Work is expected to begin in September and continue for at least five years.

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