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Could future moon and Martian bases be built from astronaut blood and space dust?

The cost of just launching a satellite into orbit is enormous, so it’s almost incalculable to lift everything needed for a temporary installation all the way to the Moon or Mars – like brick, mortar, concrete, and other materials. of construction. It only gets bigger when you think about what is needed to build a permanent presence on another world.

With this logistical challenge in mind, researchers at the University of Manchester (UM) attempted to tackle the problem with a somewhat less modern approach. It is a project they hope to be both achievable in the short term and sustainable in the long term.

In a study published this week in Materials Today Bio, researchers argued that a protein found in human blood – human serum albumin – bound to the simulated moon and Martian soil to form a biocomposite material that had about the same strength as concrete.

Plus, you can boost AstroCrete (the name the authors gave the novel) by literally adding urine to the mixture. Urea, a waste by-product that we excrete in urine, sweat and tears, adds much more compressive strength to the material, potentially up to 300%.

“Scientists have tried to develop viable technologies to produce concrete-like materials on the surface of Mars, but we never stopped thinking that the answer might be in us from the start,” said Dr Aled Roberts. , one of the UM team members who worked on the project, is making a statement announcing their findings.

Historically, animal blood has been used as a binding agent in mortar because it actually works. While those who used the biological binding agent were unaware of the underlying mechanism that makes it work, the UM team studied precisely this and found that blood proteins denature, also known as curdling. , which creates extensive structures that bind the material together. .

“It is exciting that a major challenge of the space age could find its solution based on inspirations from medieval technology,” added Roberts.

Analysis: building a base on another world through blood, sweat, tears and pee

While this may seem like a new fix for drawing local materials to build a Moon or Martian base, it’s pretty much what explorers have always done, for better or for worse.

Formally known as in situ resource use, we have generally referred to it as “living off the land” historically, and not just for food either. Whenever we have explored a new realm, be it ancient hunters and gatherers, Roman legions, European colonizers and now astronauts, we have always relied on building a new society in a new place with the materials that were readily available. the low.

Of course, new settlers often brought things with them, but the Vikings who settled in England in the 300 years from 800 to 1066 did not bring the materials of their great halls and settlements in their longboats. They built them with English timber and whatever England had on hand, much to the dismay of the English.

Fortunately, there is no life on the Moon or Mars that our installation will disrupt, but whatever colonies we end up building there, they will have the character of the Moon or Mars much more than they won’t look like anything on Earth.

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