In Situ Resource Utilization
ISRU is the use of indigenous materials at the site of an interplanetary mission for the production of rocket propellants, life support consumables, or other necessary commodities. The Department of Aeronautics & Astronautics has a laboratory dedicated to the development of the technology that will make ISRU on Mars a reality. In addition, mission design studies incorporating ISRU technologies have been undertaken and have shown that ISRU will prove to be a key technology for the future exploration of Mars.
Experiments have been carried out at the Mars Atmospheric Simulation Facility to determine how effective molecular sieves, such as Zeolite 3A, are at extracting water from the Martian atmosphere. This facility has also been used to calibrate the humidity sensor in the Thermal and Electrical Conductivity Probe (TECP) package that was aboard the Phoenix Mars Lander.