In an effort to construct shelters and manufacture instruments, astronauts could solely have to convey one key ingredient — with minerals within the lifeless Martian soil capable of do the remainder, a brand new research revealed Wednesday mentioned.
The important thing ingredient is chitin — a fibrous substance that could be a element of cell partitions in fungi, the exoskeletons of crustaceans and bugs, and the scales of fish and amphibians.
Chitin may very well be mixed with floor soil by early Martian settlers to fabricate a brand new materials with out particular gear and utilizing little vitality, researchers from the Singapore College of Expertise and Design mentioned.
The chitin to be used on Mars, the research mentioned, may come from bugs. Given their excessive protein content material, bugs may type a part of the weight-reduction plan for a crewed mission. The authors mentioned that the extraction of chitin could be a byproduct of the crew’s meals provide and consumption.
To check their principle, the scientists mixed chitosan, an natural polymer created from shrimp, and a mineral designed to imitate the properties of Martian soil.
The manufacturing course of used water and a few primary chemistry. The water, the research mentioned, may very well be obtained from subsurface ice on Mars. Sodium hydroxide may very well be created from Martian soil. And acetic acid may very well be created from fermentation of microorganisms — resembling meals waste.
The researchers then used the fabric to assemble a wrench and a mannequin of a Martian habitat, which they mentioned demonstrated the fabric may allow the fast manufacturing of objects resembling primary instruments and inflexible shelters.
The wrench the scientists made wasn’t as robust as one created from steel, however Fernandez mentioned it met NASA’s standards for “non-critical house functions.”
Fernandez described the analysis as a proof of idea. The workforce did not take a look at the gadgets in situations that mimicked Mars’ chilly and dry environment.
“We’ve got a path to … manufacturing buildings to instruments from 3D printing to mould casting with only one single materials.”