As the prospect of a human settlement on Mars or Moon and the City on Mars becomes the hot topic among space enthusiasts, scientists have brought it a step closer to reality with a new discovery. They have successfully created bricks out of Martian soil that has opened new hopes that the soil on the red planet can be used to make a building material just like it has been done on our planet Earth.
According to scientists, the building material is even stronger than steel-reinforced concrete which could be helpful building human settlement on Mars one day in future.
Martian soil turned into strong bricks:
A study published in Scientific Reports has revealed that researchers at the University of California at San Diego have discovered that a compound very similar to the soil found on Mars can be turned into an extremely strong, dense rock or brick.
They have said that the process to create the brick is very simple, that is using only compression was required to turn the soil into a rock, without any bake method, chemical or heat.
President Donald Trump’s bill has directed NASA to launch a manned mission to Mars in 2033 and the research, funded by US space agency, follows the bill.
“Near-future exploration to Mars connotes the technology of space construction,” the authors write. “Permanent human settlement on Mars requires infrastructure to sustain habitats and life. A steady supply of structural materials is integral towards this effort.”
To carry out the study, a Martian soil simulant dubbed Mars-1a that has a chemical composition very similar the one found on the planet was used by scientists, who have attempted the same in the past as well.
However, all the attempts made previously required polymers to bound the soil together. But this time, polymers were not required at all.
Mars-1a was encased in a rubber tube and was then compacted under high pressure for a small sample. Compression which was equivalent to a hammer blow was sufficient to turn it into a dense rock.
The rock was stronger than typical steel-reinforced concrete. Further study revealed that compression alone turned the soil into rock. What acted as a bonding agent was the nanoparticle iron oxide, common to Martian soil.
“Martian habitats are ideally constructed using only locally available soils; extant attempts to process structural materials on Mars, however, generally require additives or calcination,” the study says. “In this work we demonstrate that Martian soil simulant Mars-1a can be directly compressed at ambient into a strong solid without additives, highlighting a possible aspect of complete Martian in-situ resource utilization.”
The scientists now have plans to use the same process to create larger bricks. According to them, if further experiments turn out to be successful, the same technique could be helpful in creating structures on Mars by compacting a layer of soil then placing another layer on top and compacting that—and continuing this process until the structure is complete.
"The people who will go to Mars will be incredibly brave,” Qiao said in a statement. “They will be pioneers. And I would be honored to be their brick maker.”
NASA is exploring all the options that could pave the way for sending first humans to Mars by the 2030s. It is currently working on the development of Orion spacecraft, which the US agency plans to use to send humans on Mars.
Once the Orion aircraft passes all the safety tests, NASA will send astronauts into space to a distance never covered by humans ever. Eventually, astronauts will then be sent to low-Mars orbit.
NASA also has plans to build a research and operations “outpost” on the surface of Mars. However, getting the material needed to construct permanent structures on the red planet will be a challenge, especially if they have to be transported from Earth.