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If we hope to someday live on other worlds we need to figure out where we’re gonna lay our heads at “night.” But who would have thought we could use our own bodies as ingredients for our homes?!

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Sources:
https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/928211
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2590006421000442

Image Sources:
https://www.istockphoto.com/photo/scientists-examining-a-plant-incubator-gm1176398858-327968271
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Three_little_pigs_-_third_pig_builds_a_house_-_Project_Gutenberg_eText_15661.jpg
https://www.nasa.gov/manufacturing-processes-lunar-surface-infrastructure
https://www.istockphoto.com/photo/blood-test-tubes-samples-in-a-rack-isolated-on-white-gm521303796-91307429
https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2019/goddard-technologists-and-scientists-prepare-for-a-new-era-of-human-exploration
https://www.nasa.gov/feature/jpl/nasas-curiosity-rover-team-confirms-ancient-lakes-on-mars
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:JSC-1A_lunar_simulant_jar.agr.jpg
https://www.eurekalert.org/multimedia/799769
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2590006421000442
https://www.eurekalert.org/multimedia/799770
https://www.storyblocks.com/video/stock/red-blood-cell-medical-science-43u9e3u
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Space_Launch_System_in_Flight.jpg
https://www.istockphoto.com/photo/cow-silhouette-with-night-sky-gm835746740-136154531
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Martian_regolith_simulant_-_pile.JPG
https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/the-fact-and-fiction-of-martian-dust-storms
https://www.istockphoto.com/photo/mars-colony-expedition-on-alien-planet-life-on-mars-3d-illustration-gm864984192-143746287
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Luna_16.jpg
[♪ INTRO].

Years into the future, when the first  children grow up on Mars or the Moon, parents might have to update the  story of the three little pigs. In one version of the classic fairytale, three pigs make their houses out  of straw, wood, or clay bricks.

But on September 10th, in a paper published online in the journal Materials Today Bio, scientists  revealed a way that astronauts could make their homes out of something different. They could use Martian or lunar dust along  with an ingredient...from human blood. This idea came up as part of an ongoing  quest to get around one of the trickiest parts of space exploration: Getting  into space takes a lot of fuel, and the more mass you’re trying to get up there, the more fuel and the more money you need.

So, scientists have been looking for ways to utilize materials already on  the worlds we might visit. For instance, it would be really handy if  we could build housing out of the stuff that’s just sitting around on the Moon or Mars. Because taking a single brick to Mars would  cost an estimated two million dollars.

And you can’t live inside of a single brick, so this is the problem that  the team was trying to solve. They explored making a kind of concrete based on simulated lunar and Martian  regolith, which is the loose, dusty, rocky stuff that covers the surfaces. So they mixed those simulated regoliths  with various binders to see if they could support the weight of a building,  plus nasty environmental factors like meteor strikes and the lack of air pressure.

Now, this is not the first time a group  has suggested making regolith concrete. But the reason this team made headlines is because of what they suggested using as a binder. Instead of using a synthetic chemical,  which might require fancy equipment and heavy equipment to create, they explored using binders from the astronauts’ bodies.

Because, theoretically, like  we’re already gonna be there. They dubbed the resulting compound AstroCrete, and it includes a protein found in  human blood, called human serum albumin. In their study, the team made this  concrete with a pretty simple process:.

They compacted their simulated  regolith in a syringe, then infused it with water  filled with this protein to make pellets roughly 30 millimeters long. They also tested what would happen  if urea was added to the mix. Urea is excreted in our sweat, tears,  and… yes, urine, and it’s a denaturant.

That means it would change  the blood protein’s structure, hopefully in a way that would provide  extra strength to the concrete. And it did! The best sample the team  tested was made of simulated Moon regolith, and was actually stronger than  standard concrete on Earth.

The urea also increased the AstroCrete’s density, which would make it a bit better at  blocking high-energy radiation from space. All that said… you might see one of  the problems with this whole idea. To make a lot of AstroCrete, you  would need to harvest a good amount of this blood protein without, you  know, threatening the health or general well-being of the astronauts.

If nothing else, the team did estimate that  a six-astronaut mission would be able to provide enough blood protein and urea for 1800 bricks of AstroCrete over a 72-month mission. But also, more research needs to be  done on things like how often astronauts could donate plasma before we start  planning AstroCrete buildings. And that number of bricks would not  be enough to build a whole settlement, but it maybe could be helpful  in expanding existing buildings.

Then, if more concrete was needed beyond  that, the researchers suggested that, building on their own previous research, spider silk could be used  instead of human serum albumin. They also note that other researchers  have done significant work with the cow version of the same blood protein. Then again, both options still  come with their own challenges:.

You either have to pay for powdered spider  silk or cow protein to be sent to Mars, or both, or you have to try  to rear animals off Earth! Also, when it comes to Mars specifically,. AstroCrete is not quite ready for primetime.

The concrete made with the analog  lunar regolith may have been great, but the Mars-based AstroCrete was not  as strong as regular Earth concrete. It’s possible that further processing  the Martian regolith could help somehow, but that hasn’t been studied yet. In general, we’ll also need  to test how long it takes for this concrete to break down from erosion.

Because although wind on the Moon  isn’t really a thing thanks to the lack of an atmosphere, winds on Mars can reach more than 100 kilometers per  hour during a dust storm. Overall, AstroCrete still has  a ways to go, but then again, we’re not ready to start living on the  Moon or Mars any time soon, anyway. So, there’s plenty of time  to keep working on this idea.

Also, even if AstroCrete doesn’t end  up being part of humanity’s future, research like this continues  to push the boundaries of what we know about making habitats  that are literally out of this world. And something else that is also out of this world is this month’s space pin featuring Luna 16. After six attempts this  spacecraft brought home the Moon and now you can bring Luna 16 to your home.

The pin showcases the bubbly  spacecraft and it glows in the dark! Be sure to snatch it before  September ends at DFTBA.com/SciShow. Because when October rolls around, that pin will never be available again and we will  have a whole new pin ready for you. [♪ OUTRO].