Can I column, or what?
Researchers at Ostfold University College in Norway supplied 3D printers with a combination of urea, one of the main components of human urine, and a synthetic regolith developed by the European Space Agency (ESA). The printer produced a series of “mud” columns similar to the material that might be produced for space colonies.
These columns were heated to 80 Celsius (176 Fahrenheit) and subjected to periods of heating and cooling, similar to what they would experience on the surface of our planetary companion.
“The samples containing urea or naphthalene-based superplasticizers could bear heavy weights shortly after mixing, while keeping an almost stable shape,” Pamies reported in an article published in February.
Several methods of constructing colonies on the Moon are being explored by teams around the world. Many are centered on the construction of 3D printers, which could assemble a base colony before any human arrived. Such a completely robotic construction crew would greatly reduce the risks and costs of construction.
Once humans (and their attendant bladders) arrived on the moon, every ingredient in human urine — not just urea — might be used in the manufacture of long-term outposts.
“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. 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,” Anna-Lena Kjøniksen, Researcher on this study, stated.
In 2009, when the occupancy of the International Space Station (ISS) was raised to six space travelers, the outpost was fitted with a filter capable of turning urine into potable water. This ability to recycle water greatly reduced astronaut’s reliance on resupply ships.
One of the keys to colonizing the Moon, Mars, and beyond, may be something we have been doing since the dawn of our species. Going pee may play a significant role in going to space.
This article was originally published on The Cosmic Companion by James Maynard, an astronomy journalist, fan of coffee, sci-fi, movies, and creativity. Maynard has been writing about space since he was 10, but he’s “still not Carl Sagan.”You can read this original piece here.