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Scientists find a surprising way to create concrete for Mars buildings

If Elon Musk really wants to build an outpost on Mars for humans to live and work, visiting astronauts may have to literally give their blood, sweat, and tears — and even urine — to make it happen.

Transporting construction materials all the way to the red planet would cost be extremely costly and impractical, but scientists at the University of Manchester in England believe they may have found a workaround.

In the results of a study published recently in Materials Today Bio, the scientists discovered that by mixing a common blood plasma protein called human serum albumin with the urea waste product excreted in urine, sweat, and tears, and then blending it with simulated moon or Mars material, they were able to create a substance even stronger than concrete.

The team of scientists has called its invention AstroCrete, and believes the method could be an important step toward future Mars exploration that could see humans living and working on the faraway planet.

Dr. Aled Roberts, who was part of the University of Manchester team that worked on the research, 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 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,” Roberts said. Noting how blood from animals was once used to bind mortar, he added: “It’s exciting that a major challenge of the space age may have found its solution based on inspirations from medieval technology.”

The scientists said that during a two-year Mars mission, a crew of six astronauts would be able to produce more than half a ton of AstroCrete that could be used for sandbags or regolith bricks.

NASA is eyeing the 2030s for the first crewed mission to Mars, but that would be a relatively short trip to test a plethora of systems, including the transportation for getting astronauts safely back from such a distant location.

In other words, it could be some time before we see any astronauts passing water into a space-based cement mixer to build a shelter, but the University of Manchester scientists’ research is certainly a fascinating breakthrough that could well transform the thinking behind how to create our first construction site on another planet.

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