NASA astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) are experimenting mixing cement, a key ingredient in concrete, outside of Earth’s gravity for the very first time to understand how it hardens under microgravity. When mixed with water, cement forms a crystallized micro-structure that binds everything together as it dries, and is well-suited to life on Mars. If the experiment is successful, this would mean future astronauts could simply make concrete by mixing cement with rocks and dust (or moon dust) on Mars. Read more for a video and additional information.
The experiment is called Microgravity Investigation of Cement Solidification (MICS), and this mission sent to space consisted of eight kits with 120 variations of cement powder and its additives. Each sample included a burst pouch full of water, in which the astronauts ruptured before massaging the liquid into the cement powder sample to mix with a spatula for 90 minutes. These samples were then allowed to dry for various durations and then sent back to Earth for analysis aboard a later ISS return mission.
“On missions to the Moon and Mars, humans and equipment will need to be protected from extreme temperatures and radiation, and the only way to do that is by building infrastructures on these extraterrestrial environments. One idea is building with a concrete-like material in space. Concrete is very sturdy and provides better protection than many materials,” said Aleksandra Radlinska, Penn State civil engineer and principal investigator of the new study in the journal Frontiers in Materials.