Although concrete is the most common building material on Earth, it has rarely been considered for use in space due to its weight.
That ought to soon change, thanks to a new experiment with the intention to test the properties of the ubiquitous constructing material in the microgravity conditions aboard the ISS, a press statement reveals.
In the new experiment, which is part of German astronaut Matthias Maurer’s “Cosmic Kiss” mission, Maurer will hand-mix a small sample of concrete in space. To do this, he uses a specially designed blender and a large inflatable bag. The experiment will allow scientists to analyze the effect that gravity, or lack thereof, has on the hardening process of concrete. Findings will inform construction plans for future space habitats to be built by future human missions, including NASA’s Artemis missions, to the Moon and Mars.
Could blood-bound space dust provide the answer?
Though it is been around since earlier than the time of the Ancient Romans, concrete is a heavy material that might be prohibitively costly to transport from Earth. As such, the scientific community has majorly focused on alternative solutions for building substances in space.
Last year, for instance, the University of Manchester professor Dr. Aled Roberts and a group proposed binding extra-terrestrial dust, additionally referred to as regolith, collectively with astronaut blood and urine. In a September interview with IE, Dr. Roberts said group diets would “need to be supplemented with extra protein, calories, and water to make up for the deficit arising from blood-extraction.”
It is not the first time that a concrete experiment has been carried out aboard the ISS. In 2019, NASA sent other small concrete experiment to the orbital lab. The results of that experiment will inform the parameters of the new one. The results of this new research could lead to better concrete mixing strategies as well as better material combinations. It could also lead to researchers to propose a new form of concrete, similar to that proposed by Dr. Roberts proposed that will be build from off-world materials.