Secret Ingredients


Image made using photo from NASA website

Nana: You’ve been quiet for a while.

Nina: Did you miss me, Nana?

Nana: Of course, not! I’m just wondering what mischief you are brewing, and how much trouble it’s going to cause.

Nina: Don’t worry, Nana. I’m only reading Red Mars, the first book in a trilogy about humans terraforming and settling Mars. It’s such hard work, and there is so much politics even among scientists.

Nana: Obviously, it’s hard work. They are building a civilization form scratch for crying out loud, and that too on an alien planet. But I bet the book does not get into the real gory details.

Nina: What do you mean?

Nana: It seems you’re so engrossed in fiction, that you’re a little out of touch with the real world and your favorite fun facts.

Nina: So enlighten me, Nana.

Nana: You know how Churchill once said, I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat?

Nina: Yeah, he was pretty gross.

Nana: Well, astronauts may have to offer their blood, toil, sweat and tears for the terraforming project on Mars.

Nina: Nana, I know it’s going to be tough. But what’s the fun fact?

Nana: No, I mean literally their blood, sweat and tears. Concrete on Mars could be made using human blood plasma, and urea from sweat or urine, to bind the regolith and improve the tensile strength of the resulting bricks. The material has been named astrocrete. Studies and experiments show that astrocrete is likely to be stronger than concrete.

Nina: No way! In Red Mars they mix nylon from discarded parachutes to increase the tensile strength of the bricks, and I thought that was cool. But the real thing is so much more amazing.

Nana: Haha. I surprised you with a fun fact.

Nina: Well, sort of. But did you know, that in medieval times, they used ox blood to make mortar. So in a way, the idea is old, just like you. The protein in blood, makes for a great binding agent.

Nana: Blah, blah, blah. Just admit I outdid you in fun facts.

Nina: Never!

This post is a part of the #NinaAndNana series I co-host with Lavanya Srinivasan. Her posts can be found here.

Tags: technology, space, science, Nina and Nana, physics, astronomy, humor, family