If we ever make it to Mars, astronauts will likely be there a while… so they’ll need to build some kind of home base for their mission.

But what kind of base?

And what material can they use?

A new project has developed a kind of “cosmic concrete,” and the key ingredient comes from potatoes.

There have been other projects to develop space bricks, but to come up with a binding agent for the concrete substitutes, they have turned to the astronauts’ blood or, well, their liquid waste.

A team at the University of Manchester found a more straightforward alternative in potato starch.

Astronauts would have to grow food on a Mars mission anyway, so they could just add some potato seeds and they’ll have shelter as well as nutrition.

Planetary soil plus starch and a little salt equals what they call StarCrete, which they say is more than twice as strong as standard concrete.

The process for making StarCrete is also greener than the one for making the usual kind.

Standard concrete is very energy intensive and requires high firing temperatures, while StarCrete could actually fire in a regular oven at regular baking temperatures – or even in a microwave.

Which means StarCrete might be really useful for construction projects on this planet as well as any others we might be up for visiting.

Today in 1991, the Wall Street Journal reported on an unusual training session for the Seattle Police Department.

Two members of Seattle’s fingerprint ID section had been hurt by falling out of chairs, and a third got injured by a quickly dropping chair seat.

So they took a workshop in chair safety.

Scientists develop a ‘cosmic concrete’ that is twice as strong as regular concrete (University of Manchester)

Seattle Police Head Back to Class For a Course in Chair-Sitting 101 (Wall Street Journal)

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Photo by Mike Mozart via Flickr/Creative Commons