Implementing Materials Science to Take Us to Infinity and Beyond the Darkest Regions of Space

Lab Informatics

materials science
Our space dreams may become realities. Can innovations in materials science lead the way?
Image source: Flickr user Chris Halderman

In 2014, the movie Interstellar, an epic science fiction film that considered what would happen if a person were to fall into a black hole, captured the imagination of millions of people and space enthusiasts. But even before that, scientists have been inspired by space and have been carefully considering ways to transfer humans from our home on Earth and into space. And of all the places to go, scientists have most seriously considered a journey to Mars.1 Still, at least 34 million miles separate Mars and Earth, and a series of significant design barriers exist in identifying the type of craft one could use to travel to Mars, for example, or how this aircraft could even land on such a volatile surface or pass its fiery atmosphere. However, these challenges have not deterred some individuals who have signed up for a one-way ticket to Mars, arranged by the organization Mars One, which hopes to build the first human colony on Mars.2 But regardless of their enthusiasm, significant achievements must still be made in materials science in order to facilitate travel to Mars.

All the Moving Parts: Connecting the Moving Dots

Given the many considerations that must be made before travel to Mars is safe, researchers who work at the intersection of materials science and spacecraft should use specialized software that helps prioritize problems and provides a careful lab informatics-based read-through of experiments to ensure the right tasks are being completed. In particular, organizations such as Mars One and its competitors would find software such as the BIOVIA Experiment Knowledge Base (EKB) especially important for furthering their goals and making the necessary advancements in materials science. With limited resources and staff, the EKB is essential for innovative experiment planning and design, monitoring and managing scientific workflow issues as well as tracking samples and procedures throughout the pipeline. From this, researchers will be able to more effectively collect data that can then be applied toward scientific advancement. As discussed, most of the effort toward enabling space travel requires advancements in materials science. Following are specific areas that require improvement and ways the EKB software could further knowledge in that field:

Resisting deadly meteoroids: A significant challenge in traveling to Mars is space debris and deadly meteoroids. Advancements in materials science would thus be important toward determining the lightest, most resilient spacecraft materials that might deflect or diminish the impact of this debris on spacecraft. Organizations should consider using software such as BIOVIA EKB coupled with materials science principles to collect data directly from lab equipment and mine the data in order to make determinations about the best materials. This same technique can be applied in determining the best materials for landing (a spacecraft could shed its outer-suit as it lands) or pass through Mars’ atmosphere.

Bone/Muscle Deterioration: It is well known that astronauts who spend time at the International Space Station or in space experience muscle and bone atrophy. Thus, travel to Mars would likely be significantly more taxing. Here, materials science advancements can perhaps save the day. Essentially, scientists should consider how certain materials interact with biological material in order to alter the composition of biological materials. The idea would be to use materials science to then strengthen those tissues that experience atrophy due to space travel. Alternatively, materials science could be used to determine the types of spacesuits that are best able to withstand the forces of space and can mimic Earth’s gravity, with the goal to slow atrophy. A lab informatics system can be used to organize and streamline experimental processes while ensuring that the quality of scientific research efforts is not diminished.

Advancements in materials science will significantly improve the outcome of space travel. However, in order to make those advancements, scientists must manage workflows, conduct experiments that are sometimes difficult to interpret and mine their data for knowledge. With a well-designed lab informatics platform such as BIOVIA EKB, the process of going from a conception to a real product, be it a spacesuit or spacecraft, can be streamlined and achieved more efficiently. To consider how the BIOVIA EKB software can support your work, please contact us today.

  1. “Why Is It So Hard to Travel to Mars?” April 18, 2011, http://www.space.com/11417-mars-missions-space-travel-challenges.html
  2. “100 finalists have been chosen for a one-way trip to Mars,” February 16, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/style-blog/wp/2015/02/16/100-finalists-have-been-chosen-for-a-one-way-trip-to-mars/

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