NASA’s Perseverance rover, which is scheduled to land on Mars on February 18, 2021, will reportedly carry eleven metal additively manufactured parts. “Flying these parts to Mars is a huge milestone that opens the door a little more for Additive Manufacturing in the space industry,” said Andre Pate, the group lead for Additive Manufacturing at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.
The Mars 2020 Mission
The Mars 2020 mission is part of a larger program that includes missions to the Moon as a way to prepare for human exploration of Mars. Charged with returning astronauts to the Moon by 2024, NASA will establish a sustained human presence on and around the Moon by 2028 through NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration plans.
A key objective of Perseverance’s mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet’s geology and past climate, paving the way for human exploration of Mars, and will be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith (broken rock and dust).
The History of Additive Manufacturing in Space
NASA explains that Perseverance’s predecessor, Curiosity, was the first mission to take Additive Manufacturing to Mars when it landed in 2012 with an additively manufactured ceramic part inside the rover’s oven-like Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument. NASA has since continued to test additive manufacturing for use in spacecraft to ensure the reliability of the parts.