One of the problems with living on the moon and Mars is that future space colonists need to be protected from the bombardment of micrometeorites and radiation. Some concepts for space settlements have involved placing them in lava tubes underground. But some engineers at NASA and the Sanford School of Engineering are working on the way to make Concrete out of lunar or Martian soil according to Tech (2).

The way concrete is made on Earth is that limestone, the material that binds it together, has to be heated, a process that takes lots of energy.

Energy, however, may be at a premium, at least at first, for the first communities on other worlds.

The researchers at NASA and Stanford have hit on a method to make concrete using a biological binder. Certain proteins are useful for creating shells, bones, and teeth. Using proteins extracted from bovine blood, the research team was able to create concrete that was just as strong as the variety used for sidewalks and patios. Moreover, the material held up pretty well under simulated micrometeorite bombardment.

The way the technique might work is that a habitat might be deployed as an inflated module. Then a layer of biologically bound concrete would be added to harden it against micrometeorites and radiation.

Thus future space settlers will be able to live on the moon and Mars in relative safety.

Moreover, once the technique is refined, it might be used to make concrete on Earth in a less energy-intensive manner. Heating the limestone binder costs lots of energy and therefore constitutes a significant amount of the cost of manufacturing.

The process has a ways to go before it is ready for concrete on Earth, not to mention on other worlds. For one thing, while the concrete made with this method is as strong as some made by conventional methods, it is not as durable. The protein bound concrete would be worn away by several years of torrential rains. Also, because the experiment is being conducted on a small scale, it takes as much energy to create the new concrete as conventional methods.

Nevertheless, the research project is yet another example of something that NASA is doing that will have some benefit on Earth as well as furthering space exploration. The phenomenon is not often cited when the cost of funding NASA is evaluated. While some space proponents have oversold the concept of spinoffs over the years, they do exist and have to be taken into account. Space concrete may become another example of this.