Chemistry in Space
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency requested that the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) explore the challenges and opportunities for chemical and material processing in extraterrestrial environments such as the International Space Station (ISS), the moon, or Mars. Specifically, IDA investigated possible manufacturing methods in these environments, as well as differences in processing physics that might enable improved or novel processing methods.
IDA first identified the key characteristics that distinguish the three environments in question from Earth, including gravity, atmosphere, temperature, and in situ resources. Mars and the moon each have reduced gravity and atmosphere relative to Earth, but samples of their soils and atmospheres differ. Previous efforts to identify ways to prepare building materials in situ in Martian or lunar environments have targeted pressed and sintered soil simulants, polyethylene, and composites of the two.