What are the most basic needs for survival? This is the tough question that those hoping to colonize the Red Planet need to answer before they even consider stepping a single foot on Martian soil.
With a nickname like the Red Planet, Mars probably isn’t a vacation, right?
You’re damn right it isn’t. With a cozy average temperature of -27 degrees Celsius and an incredibly thin atmosphere comprised of mainly carbon dioxide, the surface is terribly unforgiving, providing little protection from not only the cold, but the relentless bombardment of cosmic rays originating from the Sun.
You can enjoy the fact that this produces little to no greenhouse effect, however due to Mars’ thin atmosphere and it’s lack of a magnetosphere, the surface of the red planet is highly radioactive, making it a difficult location to set up a base camp safely.
As such, the colonists of the near future will require a method of not only protecting themselves from the elements like one would here on Earth, but also a method of protection from the Sun.
How about blood concrete?
Researchers at the University of Manchester, as published in Materials Today Bio, developed a revolutionary process for producing functional concrete, known as AstroCrete, from a mixture of human blood, sweat, tears, and yes, you guessed it, urine.
This means that basically all the bodily secretions of future astronauts will be used to build the very homes they’ll live in. Isn’t science wonderful?
Now, you may be wondering why they didn’t consider just blasting construction material to Mars along with the astronauts; after all, how much could a few extra pounds cost?
A baffling amount apparently. The cost of transporting a mere one brick to Mars has been estimated at over 2 million US dollars.
So what can these brave astronauts do with this blood concrete? Quite a bit, actually. The concrete is thankfully 3-D printable, making it the perfect candidate for just about any structural form they’ll require when building their shelters.
All they’ll need is everyone to, well, pitch in.
If six astronauts all contributed their required bodily secretions over the course of two years, 500 kg of AstroCrete could be produced. This would be equal to an amount that could double the living capacity of their structure every mission, thereby increasing even more so the amount of Astrocrete that could be made.
In all honesty, the urine isn’t required. However, adding urea to the mixture improves AstroCrete’s compressive strength by over 300%, making it significantly stronger than conventional concrete.
Believe it or not, blood concrete is no new invention. Historically speaking, blood has been used as binder to produce mortar since the Medieval times.
“It is exciting that a major challenge of the space age may have found its solution based on inspirations from medieval technology”, said Dr Aled Roberts of The University of Manchester.
According to Roberts, blood proteins denature to form a tight structure held together by a secondary protein structure known as beta-sheets.
“The concept is literally blood-curdling.”
This all very interesting stuff, but we are going to acknowledge the irony of this situation, right? That we literally have to put in our blood, sweat and tears to live on Mars?
“Scientists have been trying to develop viable technologies to produce concrete-like materials on the surface of Mars, but we never stopped to think that the answer might be inside us all along.”
Well said Dr. Roberts. Well said.