A manned Mars mission is NASA’s next big project, but researchers are not only concerned with when and how mankind will get there but also how they might survive on the inhospitable red planet.
The main obstacle facing the mission? In order to build a settlement there, several tons’ worth of building material from Earth would need to be shipped to the red planet – an expensive undertaking when you consider that the transport costs of a spaceflight to Mars are in the $3 billion per ton range. Scientists from Northwestern University in Illinois have now found a more cost-effective solution: they have succeeded in producing a type of concrete using raw materials available on Mars in large quantities.
To create the material, sulphur was heated to 240 degrees Celsius so that it became liquid, then mixed with simulated Mars soil made from silicon dioxide and aluminium dioxide. The sulphur hardens during cooling and binds with these particles. Another advantage of this Mars concrete is that it can be melted down again and recycled – and it’s also twice as stable as the normal concrete used on Earth.