IMAGE: University of Manchester/ NASA.Gov (representative)
In a new study conducted by the University of Manchester, researchers have discovered that human settlements on Mars could be possible with astronaut biocomposites. This alternatively means that blood, sweat and tears of pioneering astronauts could literally result in the successful fabrication of concrete to establish colonies off the world. The combination would also involve human proteins and extra-terrestrial dust.
“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,” said Dr. Aled Roberts, lead author of the study and faculty at The University of Manchester.
In a breakthrough moment to the long conducted research for establishing Martian colonies, scientists have developed a new idea that could save more than a million British pounds. As the study elucidated, the primary combination will require a layer of unconsolidated solid material covering the bedrock of the planet or regolith from Mars or Moon. The particles will be combined with human protein compounds to establish "affordable housing in outer space." "The protein from human blood, combined with a compound from urine, sweat or tears, could glue together simulated moon or Mars soil to produce a material stronger than ordinary concrete, perfectly suited for construction work in extra-terrestrial environments," the study published in Materials Today Bio asserted.
The researchers mentioned that animal blood was historically used as the binder for mortar, using the same medieval technological "inspiration" they have developed the current composite. Calling it "AstroCrete," Dr. Roberts said that the "blood-curdling" concept was based on the underlying bonding mechanism found in human blood proteins to form an extended structure with "beta-sheets" interactions.
However, several hurdles need to be met before the establishment of housing complexes off the Earth. As the study suggested, for realistic implementation of the concept heavy equipment and spare parts will be needed to be moved from Earth. "(This) would increase mission complexity and largely offset the benefit of employing ISRU." Adding details, the study mentioned, "For a crewed mission to Mars, any such equipment would also have to guarantee ultra-high reliability and redundancy, since the delivery of any replacement equipment or components from Earth will be restricted by limited launch windows and long travel times. The exploitation of natural resources produced by the astronauts themselves (in vivo) has received surprisingly little attention, despite the ready availability – by definition – of such resources on any crewed mission." Lastly, the study also highlighted that the discovery still required further investigations to determine the feasibility of the concept, particularly "fatigue and durability evaluation" under simulated Martian conditions.