After this weekend's record breaking sky dive from the edge of space, sponsored by Red Bull, you could be forgiven for thinking that NASA has lost its mojo and is ceding the limelight to Austrian dare devils and energy drink companies.
Have no fear space lovers, NASA is doing just fine. The space agency's Desert Research and Technology Studies (D-RATS) groups are hard at work on the most pressing challenges for space exploration, including manned missions to Mars. The research program conducts two weeks of field tests every September, in the Arizona desert near Flagstaff. Since 2009, the D-RATS have been developing a new SUV-sized manned rover, which, keeping with NASA's reputation as a technology innovator, is made with 70 parts that were fabricated using a Stratsys' Fortus FDM 3D printer.
The production-grade Fortus printer was used to create parts that include pod doors, the front bumper, camera mounts, custom fixtures, and flame-retardant vents and housings. The custom parts were printed in ABS, PCABS, and polycarbonates.
The large rover is designed to serve as both transportation and shelter for two human passengers, and has 12 wheels on independently moving six axles. The goal of the vehicle is to enable astronauts to move around Mars and to work without being confined to space suits. Previous manned rovers, such as the Lunar Rover Vehicle used on the Apollo missions to the moon, were unpressurized, more like a dune buggy than the Luxury Space SUV (LSSUV?) in the video below.