If Elon Musk wants to build an outpost on Mars for humans to live and work, astronauts may have to give their blood, sweat, and tears literally – and even their urine – to make it happen.
Scientists at the University of Manchester in England believe they may have found a way to transport construction materials to Mars.
Using a common blood plasma protein called human serum albumin and urea waste products excreted in urine, sweat, and tears and blending it with simulated moon or Mars material, researchers have developed a more potent substance than concrete.
They have named their invention AstroCrete, and believe the method could be an important step toward future Mars exploration, where humans could live and work on the distant planet.
Dr. Aled Roberts, a member of the University of Manchester research team, told the university’s EurekaAlert publication that the new technique appears to offer improvements over earlier ideas for constructing buildings in environments far from Earth.
“Scientists have tried to develop viable technologies to produce concrete-like materials on Mars, but we never considered the possibility that the answer might be inside us,” Roberts said. Having observed how animal blood was once used to bind mortar, he said: “It’s exciting that a major challenge of the space age may have found its solution in medieval technology.”
Six astronauts would be able to produce more than half a ton of AstroCrete during a two-year Mars mission, which could be used for sandbags or regolith bricks.
NASA is targeting the 2030s for a crewed mission to Mars, but that would be a relatively short trip that would test various systems, including transportation to safely return astronauts from such a remote location.
Consequently, it could be a while before astronauts pass water into a space-based cement mixer to construct a shelter, but the University of Manchester researchers’ study is a fascinating breakthrough that could well change the way we construct our first construction site on another planet.