Aerogel Ultralight Material Mars

Photo credit: NASA
Let’s face it, Mars as we know it is an inhospitable place, or at least on the surface. Raising crops on Mars is far easier in movies than it will be in real life, mainly because the mean water can persist on the surface only as ice due to its subzero temperatures and the planet’s atmosphere offers little protection to plants (or people) from the Sun’s radiation. NASA does have plans however to put humans on Mars using data collected from its Artemis lunar explorations. Researchers propose that an ultralight material called aerogel might one day help humans build greenhouses and other habitats at Mars’ mid-latitudes, where near-surface water ice has been identified. Aerogel is essentially a Styrofoam-like solid that is 99% air, making it extremely light and adept at preventing the transfer of heat as well, making it an excellent insulator. Read more for another video and additional information.

Aerogel is also translucent, thus allowing visible light to pass through while blocking ultraviolet light’s harmful radiation. Most of this ultralight material is made from silica, the same material found in glass, and in an experiment conducted by lead author Robin Wordsworth of Harvard, 2-3 centimeters of silica aerogel allowed light from a lamp tuned to simulate Martian sunlight to heat the surface beneath it by up to 150° Fahrenheit, or just enough to raise temperatures on the Martian surface and melt water ice.