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Why Astronauts Are Growing Cement in Space

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Humanosity says…We are in in the middle of a new space race. The success of companies like SpaceX is the public face of a fast-growing industry that sees humanity’s future and a huge profit in exploiting space. Key to this is being able to use the resources that are already up there. This article looks at efforts to grow cement in space…

We are currently witnessing a second space race. Countries like China and India are developing increasingly complex and ambitious space programmes. NASA is currently testing its new Space Launch System rocket, designed to facilitate the agency’s deep space ambitions.

The new kids on the block are the private companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin who are actively pursuing manned missions to the Moon and beyond. There are also a host of more publicity-shy companies that are developing missions to mine the asteroid belt. However, this article from the MIT shows that the hype on this may outweigh the feasibility at this stage.

Whether hype or not one thing is for sure, establishing a human presence on the moon or Mars represents a huge technical and financial challenge. Simply getting there is a challenge in itself but it’s one that the engineers have already tackled. Staying there is a challenge that engineers are now tackling head-on.

On missions to the moon and Mars, the astronauts and their equipment will need protection from the extremes of temperature and from deadly radiation. So thoughts have turned to what building materials could be used.

Here on Earth, the most common building material by far is concrete. Although the Romans used concrete extensively, it’s in the last couple of hundred years that concrete has transformed the world we live in.

So it makes sense to think that we might be able to use concrete for our off-world habitats.

  • Living on the moon and Mars will require building materials. Cement seems like an obvious answer, and scientists are growing it on the International Space Station (ISS).
  • Growing cement on the ISS is a series of trial-and-error experiments.
  • While there are years of study ahead, scientists have shown that they can harden cement on the ISS.

These tests have set out to prove that you can make and harden concrete in the microgravity of space. If so then being able to use it in the lower gravity environments of the moon and Mars will be extremely useful in constructing habitats on these worlds.

The video below is from NASA and shows the agency’s view on how concrete may lay the foundations of future space exploration.

Sources: www.popularmechanics.com, NASA, MIT Technology Review

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