Mars is not the friendliest planet for humans
While the Red Planet is roaming rovers, researchers are pondering the construction of shelters and materials needed by future Martian colonists. The authors of the new paper suggest that we could use one of the most common organic polymers on Earth to build shelters on Mars. This material, called chitin, is produced and metabolized by most biological organisms and makes up the bulk of the cell walls of fungi, scales of fish and amphibians, as well as crustaceans. The team, led by Javier Fernandez of the University of Technology and Design of Singapore, tried to create the material by combining chitin fiber with a mineral material that mimics Martian soil. This study is crucial for future space missions to the moon and Mars, which may include a long stay in space.
According to the authors of the paper, published in the journal, chitin is one of the materials that can be used to design the necessary shelter in space. In the course of the work, the researchers used chitin to develop an "artificial ecosystem that will support human health in the Martian environment." The production of shelter materials on Mars must be cost-effective, and, as the author writes, "sustainable production of these materials must be contextualized in the Martian ecosystem."
The hit material can also be used to design tools. So, the team created a wrench by combining chitosan derived from chitin with a mineral that mimics soil on Mars. The results showed that the new material can quickly produce basic tools and build shelters. Dr. Fernandez that bioinspirated production and sustainable materials do not replace synthetic polymers, but instead allow technology to identify a new kind of production that synthetic analogues cannot achieve.
Chitin can be cast in different forms.
We have demonstrated that chitin materials are important not only for our survival on Earth, but also for one of the next major achievements of mankind: our transformation into an interplanetary species.
Scientists in the laboratory were able to produce the Martian Biolite using chitosan derived from the cuticle of arthropods by processing sodium hydroxide, a component obtained on Mars through electrolytic hydrolysis. Simply put: the resulting material "looks like concrete, but much easier."
Since chitin is very common on our planet, it can also be used for food production and life support systems. Researchers note that this almost versatile material can be used in agriculture and biological waste processing. Chitin can also be used in the production of bioplastics. Moreover, the study notes that the extraction of chitin will not compete with the supply of food, but is a by-product.
Note that the chitin technology was originally developed to create circular ecosystems in urban environments, but the researchers realized that the developed technology would be sufficient in closed artificial ecosystems, such as other planets. "While scarce resources in extraterrestrial environments pose extraordinary challenges to establish a closed ecological cycle that supports human activity, conceptually it is similar to the problem of sustainable development on Earth," the authors concluded.
Despite the fact that it is possible to build whole shelters from chitin, this material will not save from cosmic radiation
Recall that in the last few years several countries have announced their intention to send a man to Mars. However, many scientists regularly express doubts about this idea, reminding of space radiation - one of the leading problems between humanity and space travel. As the results of numerous scientific studies have shown, cosmic radiation can have a negative impact not only on the body, but also on the brains of future astronauts. Learn more about this issue
However, an unfriendly space environment does not mean that humanity will remain forever on Earth. Elon Musk's SpaceX and NASA are set to send their first humans to Mars in just three years, so the question of sheltering astronauts on the Red Planet is more relevant than ever. And do you think that in 2024 the first manned mission to Mars in the history of mankind will take place? We will wait in the comments to this article as well as