Astronaut’s urine can be used to build moon bases

01 Avril, 2020, 19:09 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • Urea from astronauts' pee may help build moon bases: Study

And the astronauts may build their base using something readily available: their urine. NASA hopes to send astronauts to the lunar South Pole by 2024, working with commercial and global partners. It's a place with fluctuating temperatures that will require astronauts to "learn how to live and operate on the surface of another celestial body", according to the agency.

In the next few decades, NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), China, and Russian Federation all plan to create outposts on the lunar surface that will allow for a permanent human presence.

Without an atmosphere, the Moon's surface is subject to a lot of radiation; and, without an atmosphere, there's nothing to burn up any space rocks that might want to rain down. After returning to the Moon after the Apollo 11 mission in 1969, the United States of America plans to be permanent this time. Unlike the Apollo program, this suggests a sustained presence on and around the moon. They said, currently, transporting about 0.45 kilogrammes of material from the Earth to space costs about $ 10,000, adding that the construction of a complete module on any satellite in this way would be very expensive.

Architects Foster and Partners created a design that could work as a lunar base in partnership witht he European Space Agency.

The team used a 3D printer to generate cylinders of material made from moon regolith substitute combined with urea, said SINC, the news agency of the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology, in a statement on Friday. The study published last week in the Journal of Cleaner Production.

"We have not yet investigated how the urea would be extracted from the urine, as we are assessing whether this would really be necessary, because perhaps its other components could also be used to form the geopolymer concrete", says one of the researchers from the Norwegian university, Anna-Lena Kjøniksen, who adds: "The actual water in the urine could be used for the mixture, together with that which can be obtained on the Moon, or a combination of both".

But the researchers wanted to limit the amount of water used, since that will be needed for the astronauts and life support systems.

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He said the two main components of urine are water and urea - a molecule that allows the hydrogen bonds to be broken and helps bind liquid mixtures.

In the course of their study, the researchers have explored the extent to which the urine contains urea which is suitable as a plasticizer in the manufacture of concrete on the moon.

Other common plasticizers, like naphthalene and polycarboxylate, were also mixed with regolith and printed in the same way for comparison.

They also made cylinders from the regolith and other plasticisers - materials that make it less viscous - to see how the urea compares to commercial products.

Samples containing urea or naphthalene-based superplasticisers could bear heavy weights shortly after mixing, while keeping an nearly stable shape.

This 1.5 tonne building block was produced as a demonstration of 3D printing techniques using lunar soil. As soon as heated up to 80 ° C, their resistance was likewise checked and also even enhanced after eight freeze-thaw cycles like those on the Moon. They withstood a peak temperature of 176 degrees Fahrenheit during the tests. "Additional work regarding these aspects are now in progress".

In the implementation of the plans are enormous challenges to overcome: settlements on the moon must be able to withstand the extreme temperature fluctuations, meteorite bombardment and intense radiation.

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