A team of current and former University of Regina students have spent years designing, developing, and fine-tuning a brilliant airlock prototype, in the hopes that it could land on Mars – and now they’re almost done, with a victory in a national design competition to show for it.
The airlock is intended to provide a bridge between the different atmospheric conditions of Mars and a habitat that could be erected on the Red Planet, allowing future astronauts to travel safely between the two environments.
Jay Patel works on some of the structural components of Celestial Laboratories – the name the design and engineering group has given itself – and is one of five students who have astronomical ambitions to help sustain life on a planet. beyond Earth.
“If you think about it, all the forces on Mars are in some way trying to kill human life or any living life,” Patel told host Stefani Langenegger in a CBC radio interview. Morning edition.
This means taking the difference in pressure, temperature and radiation into account in their design.
Their prototype, named the Bion Airlock System, emerged from a competition called Project Airlock that involved universities across the country – with some international submissions, according to team members – to research, design and manufacture an airlock. .
Earlier this month, Regina’s band were crowned champions for their design.
About 35 people have contributed to the project at one time or another, but only five members continued to work on it to completion.
“I’ve always been fascinated by going beyond the horizon,” Patel said. “If you ask someone what has been the most exciting thing that human beings have achieved, [they] would say ‘Go to the moon and come back.’
“This is the greatest achievement as a species for us and it still inspires me.”
Once the prototype is complete, the team plans to present it to industry experts for consultation. They are hoping that some aspects of their product design – or all – will be sent to Mars before the end of the decade.
The idea that something he did could end up on another planet is “surreal” to Wil Norton, responsible for coordinating the manufacture of the airlock system.
He and Patel said they spend more than 30 hours a week working on the project at times, continuing to work on the airlock design while preparing for their engineering degrees.
At first, the possibility of their design being shipped to Mars in some form or another seemed like a distant dream. But as the competition developed, that dream became more tangible.
As an engineering student, Norton said the project was difficult, but that’s what prompted him to pursue it.
“It’s still hard to figure out, but it really justifies the hours we put into this project,” Norton said.