May 14, 2015
NASA is already in the planning stages for a future trip to Mars, and one of the hurdles they must jump is how humans will breath on the Red Planet. However, instead of carrying huge oxygen tanks, future human missions may actually utilize methods to actually produce the life giving gas on the planet itself.
NASA is interested in not just paying a visit to Mars, but is also looking at creating ecosystems that could support life for future missions to the planet. As part of this goal, it is funding the Indiana-based company Techshot, Inc. to research a solution that will produce oxygen that won’t rely heavily on the Earth for future Martian colonies.
“This is a possible way to support a human mission to Mars, producing oxygen without having to send heavy gas canisters,” chief scientist at Techshot, Eugene Boland says. “Let’s send microbes and let them do the heavy lifting for us,” he added.
The experiments by Techshot are carried out in its “Mars room.” This room simulates the atmospheric pressure, day and night temperature changes and solar radiation experienced on the surface of the Red Planet.
The atmosphere on Mars consists of 96% carbon dioxide and less than 0.2% oxygen (Earth has about 21% oxygen). If astronauts tried breathing the air on Mars, they would quickly suffocate.
Using Martian soil, the scientists test the feasibility of using ecosystem-building pioneer organisms to produce oxygen. At the same time, these organisms could also remove the nitrogen from the soil of Mars as well. Boland believes that habidable biodomes that “enclose ecopoiesis-provided oxygen through bacterial or algae-driven conversion systems” could exist on the Martian surface in the near future.
NASA has already states that its goal of landing astronauts on the surface of the Red Planet is vital to its mission to search for new life. That search, of course, has already begun. Recently, NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover found evidence of fixed nitrogen and carbon-containing organic molecules on the surface. These ingredients are key for life and the findings have sparked curiosity among scientists if there could be some form of life on Mars.
Scientists now believe that at one point in time Mars looked very different than it does today. It is now believed that ancient Mars once held waterways and even vast oceans in the northern hemisphere making it a good candidate for life, at least at one point in time. Whether there is still any life hidden away on Mars is a question that still must be answered and NASA hopes a manned mission will be the key to our search for life outside of Earth.