Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 15 December 2019

UAE academic hopes invention will land on Mars in four years’ time

Mihai Sanduleanu, a professor at the Masdar Institute, has submitted his ideas for a “self-healing circuit board” to Mars One, a non-profit foundation with the goal of sending long-term settlers to the red planet by 2025.
An artist's impression of the Mars One lander, set to be launched in 2018.  Courtesy of Mars One
An artist's impression of the Mars One lander, set to be launched in 2018. Courtesy of Mars One

DUBAI // Mars One is determined to send an experimental probe to the Red Planet by 2018, and a Masdar professor is determined it will include some of his technology.

Mihai Sanduleanu has submitted his ideas for a “self-healing circuit board” to Mars One, a non-profit foundation.

The design, which is still in the early phases of development, will mean astronauts will not need to worry about their equipment failing them during long missions.

“In a harsh environment you rely on your equipment to protect you,” said Mr Sanduleanu. “If something goes wrong … this can mean the difference between sustaining life over the long term, or disaster.”

Mars One has linked up with aerospace technology company Lockheed Martin to send the spacecraft to Mars in 2018.

Its longer-term goal is to send settlers to the planet by 2025.

The foundation opened its doors to scientists and researchers around the world for ideas on experiments to be conducted on the surface of the planet.

Based in the Netherlands, it aims to send four people to Mars, with the training and actual mission filmed for a reality-TV documentary.

The funds from the TV show will go some way to funding the US$6 billion (Dh22.03bn) mission.

Three people from the UAE have made it through to the second round of the selection process, and will soon undergo a full medical and thorough interview over their motivations.

The 2018 mission will try to extract water from the frozen subsoil of the planet and test the ability of thin film solar panels to capture energy from the sun.

Other ideas will come from universities, and will be selected in a vote by the Mars science research community. This is where Mr Sanduleanu hopes his ideas will come in.

“We are opening our doors to the scientific community in order to source the best ideas from around the world,” said Arno Wielders, co-founder and chief technical officer of Mars One.

“The ideas that are adopted will not only be used on the lander in 2018, but will quite possibly provide the foundation for the first human colony on Mars.

“For anyone motivated by human exploration, there can be no greater honour than contributing to a manned mission to Mars.”

Mr Sanduleanu said he came up with the idea of self-healing circuit boards while working at an experimental division at IBM. He moved to the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology six months ago to pursue his research.

The design relies on nanoscale circuits and involves monitoring for any defect and adjusting voltage accordingly.

“The implications for aerospace departments are huge,” Mr Sanduleanu said. “It reduces the need to carry out manual maintenance on equipment in space, which can be technically difficult and involve lots of resources.”

Mars One is also selling two spaces on the lander, each for $20m, which will contribute to the cost of the mission.

These spaces, each 2 kilograms, could be scientific but they do not have to be.

“Any company or individual can do whatever they want, as long as it fits within the 2kg and it fits within the requirements,” said Bas Lansdorp, chief executive and co-founder of Mars One.

“We can’t, for instance, sending anything alive to Mars, or anything that was alive, because of planetary protection issues.

“We could send an advertisement banner to Mars, and I was contacted by a group who wanted to send a Quran to Mars.”

Mr Lansdorp said he would not necessarily be adverse to sending something as selective as a UAE flag to Mars but would consider each application case by case.

“In principle, I don’t see a huge issue with that,” he said. “Obviously though, if you want a flag to be deployed on a flagpost, it would be more valuable than if it were just in a box on the surface of Mars.”

mcroucher@thenational.ae

Updated: July 3, 2014 04:00 AM

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