We need much to live on Mars – food, water, shelter – and the only way to ensure that we have it on hand on the red planet, at least initially, is taking everything with us.
And if we want to spend more than a few days there, the basics is not enough. a large infrastructure will be needed, with houses, agricultural structures, warehouses and roads. In other words, we would need cities (and concrete). How will we build them?
Researchers at the Department of Civil Engineering at Northwestern University are working on a project that seeks to discover how we can transform the dust of Mars in concrete. In a paper published in ArXiv , the study leader, Lin Wan and his co-authors expose a mixing process with molten sulfur and dust of Mars.
It’s an interesting idea, which raises some important questions. For example, as we could gather these materials?
The expectation is that explorers are able to locate and extract sulfur on Mars. Once that source is found, conventional methods of mixing concrete or something a little more sophisticated would be applied.
“The easiest way would be finding a sulfur mine on Mars,” said Wan to Gizmodo. “Otherwise, we have to use chemicals to extract sulfur from sodium sulfate or other sources. Using solar energy to accomplish the mixture should be easy. And constructions also require the use of a mold for the concrete to be in the desired format. I predict that this is possible with 3D printing techniques . ”
According to Wan, after all this is ready, Mars may receive all kinds of construction, including roads, tunnels, bridges and houses. The researchers believe that the Martian concrete will be up to three times stronger due to the lower gravity of Mars – but he has not yet passed a real test.
And there are some risks involved. “The only limiting factor is the low resistance to high temperatures and fire. Let’s say an astronaut is cooking in a room made of martian concrete, filled with oxygen, and then something catches fire. The wall would melt. Thus it would be necessary to develop some protection or technique to avoid these situations, “said Wan.
Of course, building a city is just part of the challenge; a greater would still be living in that city. And before that can happen, there are other obstacles to overcome. Controlaríamos as the temperature of the planet? (Elon Musk suggests using fusion bombs in the atmosphere.) How produziríamos food? (Botanists are planting vegetables in soil equal to the Martian .) As we could oxygen to breathe and clean water? These and other questions need to be answered before we start construction.