Last month, PISCES’ research in In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) was featured in a weekly space exploration and spaceflight engineering podcast, The Orbital Mechanics. The episode featured geologist Kyla Edison discussing her work in basalt sintering and how it applies to space settlement beyond Earth.
During the Dec. 10, 2019 episode, Kyla described how she gathers and analyzes volcanic basalt samples from Hawai‘i Island to find the best candidates for sintering (or melting), creating remarkably durable building materials while cataloging varying basalt types. The sintering process could be used to produce construction materials beyond Earth, sparing the costly expense of transporting resources through space.
“[The Big Island of Hawai‘i] turns out to be a really good analog site for the moon and Mars,” Kyla said during the interview. “The geology here—the rocks in particular—are chemically and mineralogically almost identical to what you would find on the moon and Mars. So I can use this place as kind of like a simulation to make materials to apply to the Moon and Mars.”
Kyla first met a member of The Orbital Mechanics team during the International Aeronautical Congress in Washington, D.C. last year and shared some of the basalt tile samples she created. The tiles—which the hosts thought resembled “polished concrete”—piqued the group’s interest and Kyla agreed to an interview.
The Orbital Mechanics released its first episode in December 2014, and has grown in its scope and reputation, completing nearly 250 episodes this month. The team includes David Fourman, cohost and editor; Ben Etherington, cohost and producer; Richard Durdan and Dennis Just, cohosts.
“While we’ve had big name guests like Dr. Marc Rayman and Andrew Rader on the show, we still find that some of the best knowledge comes from the quiet heroes of aerospace,” said Etherington, who founded the podcast. “Our show has always been about engineering and design, and we’ll never tire of hearing about the smallest details.”