While Mars rovers roam the Red Planetresearchers are pondering the construction of shelters and materials needed for future Martian colonists. The authors of the new work 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, fish and amphibian scales, and crustaceans. A team led by Javier Fernandez of the Singapore University of Technology and Design attempted to create a material by combining chitin fiber with a mineral material that mimics Martian soil. This research is critical for future space missions to the Moon and Mars, which may include extended stays in space.
On the way to the Red Planet
According to the authors of the work, published in the journal PLOS ONE, chitin Is one of the materials that canuse 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, "the sustainable production of these materials must be contextualized in the Martian ecosystem."
Chitin material can also be used fordesigning tools. So, the team created a wrench by combining chitosan, derived from chitin, with a mineral that mimics the soil on Mars. The results showed that the new material can quickly produce basic tools and erect shelters. Dr. Fernandez told CNN that bioinspired manufacturing and sustainable materials do not replace synthetic polymers, but instead allow technology to define a new kind of manufacturing that synthetic counterparts cannot achieve.
We have demonstrated that chitinous materials are important not only for our survival on Earth, but also for one of the next greatest achievements of humanity: our transformation into an interplanetary species.
Scientists managed to produce in laboratory conditionsMartian Biolite, using chitosan obtained from the cuticle of arthropods by treatment with sodium hydroxide - a component obtained on Mars through electrolytic hydrolysis. Simply put: the resulting material is "similar to concrete, but much lighter."
Is chitin the material of the future?
Since chitin is very common in ourplanet, it can also be used for food and life support systems. The researchers note that this almost universal material can be used in agriculture and biological waste processing. Chitin can also be used in the production of bioplastics. What's more, the study notes that chitin extraction will not compete with food supplies, but a by-product.
Note that the technology using chitinwas originally designed to create circular ecosystems in urban settings, but the researchers realized that the developed technology would be sufficient in closed artificial ecosystems such as other planets. “While scarce resources in the extraterrestrial environment create extraordinary problems for establishing a closed ecological cycle that supports human activity, conceptually it is similar to the problem of sustainable development on Earth,” the authors of the scientific work concluded.
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Recall that over the past few years, at onceseveral countries have announced their intention to send humans to Mars. However, many scientists regularly express doubts about this undertaking, recalling 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 effect not only on the body, but also on the brain of future astronauts. Read more about this problem in our material.
However, an unfriendly space environment is not at allmeans that humanity will forever remain on Earth. Elon Musk's SpaceX and NASA intend to send the first humans to Mars in just three years, therefore, the issue of shelter for astronauts on the Red Planet is more relevant than ever. What do you think, will the first manned mission to Mars take place in 2024? We will wait for the answer in the comments to this article as well as in our cozy Telegram chat.