Humans may soon be literally pouring their blood, sweat and tears into colonizing Mars.
It takes a lot of money and manpower to travel the 246 million miles it takes to reach the Red Planet, let alone erect the infrastructure needed to make it habitable.
That’s the impetus behind researchers’ ghoulish new endeavor — to save a buck by engineering building components using human fluids. They’ve already done it with urine; now, they’re out for blood.
“The proverbial phrase ‘you can’t get blood from a stone’ is used to describe a task that is practically impossible regardless of how much force or effort is exerted,” the authors wrote. “This phrase is well-suited to humanity’s first crewed mission to Mars, which will likely be the most difficult and technologically challenging human endeavor ever undertaken.”
They continue to reiterate that Earth-bound materials would necessarily stay there as the cost of transporting them would make the effort futile for a vast majority of humanity. Rather, Martian resources will need to be tapped — and, in lieu of that, our own bodies.
Enter AstroCrete, a substance conjured and developed by astrochemists and engineers to serve as viable building blocks for infrastructure in space. Scientists believe that strengthening proteins in human blood impart biological properties that could make for particularly hardy bricks when mixed with Martian regolith, the dusty substance that covers the dehydrated planet.
Indeed, the protein in blood will coagulate, or “curdle”, to help create a more robust bond, helping to fortify the AstroCrete block.
“The concept is literally blood-curdling,” said lead study author Dr. Aled Roberts.
Research is ongoing as to the feasibility of using other bodily fluids. “Other in-situ human resources, such as hair and nails (keratin), dead skin cells (collagen), mucus, urine and human [feces] could also be exploited for their material properties on early extraterrestrial colonies,” the team said.
“Unfortunately, due to health and safety concerns, we were unable to explore human [feces]-based [extraterrestrial regolith biocomposites] in this study,” they added.
AstroCrete is so efficient that it could boost the compressive strength of regolith blocks by 300% or more, and, furthermore, be easily produced via 3-D printing. Models indicate that a crew of six astronauts on Mars could produce over half a ton of bio-bricks, about 1,100 pounds, in two years.
That’s about enough material to “[double] the housing available” during each mission.
Researchers say they’re just taking a page out of the book of prehistory, where archaeologists have returned time and again to discover new-old innovations.
Said Dr. Roberts, “It is exciting that a major challenge of the space age may have found its solution based on inspirations from medieval technology.”