In order to limit the costs of future moonbases, the ideal solution would be to develop building materials from components present on the spot. The regolith, of course. But also the astronauts’ urine, researchers suggest.
Last year NASA announced its intention to return to the Moon. And even to set up a permanent base there. But transporting building materials to the moon will be expensive. More than 9,000 euros for every half kilo of material transported from the Earth to the Moon! This is why work is being carried out to determine the extent to which the materials on site can be exploited.
Today, a study, carried out in Norway in particular, shows that a somewhat special additive could offer many advantages when it comes to making concrete from lunar regolith. Incorporating astronauts’ urine into the mix could help make the material more malleable before it finally hardens.
Technique still to be developed
The idea was tested using a material similar to lunar regolith developed by the European Space Agency (ESA). The researchers printed 3D cylinders of this rather unusual concrete, made from regolith and urine. And they have checked that they can support heavy weights while keeping a stable shape. Even after undergoing several cycles of heating – to 80°C – and cooling, as they could undergo on the Moon.
The results are encouraging, but still need to be completed. Researchers do not yet have a solution for extracting urea from astronauts’ urine on the Moon. For it is more precisely the properties of this substance that are exploited here. Unless the other components of the urine also have a role to play in making effective lunar concrete. Urine, after all, consists of more than 90 percent water, which is useful when it comes to making a building material.