AU students could help NASA get to Mars

AU students could help NASA get to Mars

AUBURN, AL (WTVM) - Auburn University is hoping its researchers and students will help NASA go where no man has gone before: Mars. 

On Thursday, NASA and AU announced a partnership to explore and advance 3D printing, known as additive manufacturing. The technology is a key component in NASA's quest to explore deep space.

This agreement means AU students and researchers - working in additive engineering - have an opportunity to work with NASA on their mission to an asteroid by 2025 and a manned mission to the Red Planet in the 2030's.  

Fifteen years from now, NASA hopes to send humans to Mars. The mission could determine if life exists beyond Earth and discover if humans could colonize the Red Planet.

"Additive manufacturing is important in space for two reasons, one is to reduce the cost affordability and sustainability of our launch vehicles, but it also helps us to live, work and sustain ourselves in space, because when we leave low Earth orbit going to Mars, there are no shops along the way to help us so we will have to manufacture parts like we do now on the International Space Station 3D printers to help us further our way into space," said Patrick Scheuermann, the Director at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center.
The technology uses 3D printing to create complex, three-dimensional parts from powders. It's more cost effective, more precise, and faster than traditional manufacturing.

The AU-NASA partnership was inked during Thursday's Auburn University forum on the new technology. Greg Morris, GE Aviation General Manager of Additive Technologies, was the keynote speaker.

"Because it's additive and not subtractive  we can create twists and turns, lattice work we can't do any other way by machining. The only way to make these components is by using additive manufacturing," Morris explained.

The NASA Space Act agreement is similar to AU's partnership with GE Aviation, where students are already working at the GE Aviation's plant as it becomes the first facility in the world to use high volume additive manufacturing to create jet engine parts.

"Our students will get hands on experience while they are students here at Auburn University, but also something that is very important is internships, we hope our students will be able to experience this activity both at NASA and also at GE Aviation," said Dr. John Mason, AU Vice President for research and economic development.

Dr. Mason believes AU's partnerships with GE and now NASA are going to put AU students on a path of success in this booming and ever-evolving industry.

NASA is using additive manufacturing to not only build components of the spacecraft going to Mars, but it's a key in sustaining the mission once humans are on the way. Additive manufacturing can be used to print anything like clothes, shoes and even food.

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