There appears to be a new sensational advancement amidst conflicting reports claiming the existence of methane (the main component of natural gas) on the planet of Mars. NASA is now reporting that we may soon see fruitful human missions to the Red Planet — Indiana-based engineering and research firm Techshot, Inc. is helping with the effort to produce oxygen on Mars. If proven to be successful, future missions will be able to proceed without oxygen tanks.
The intricacies of recreating oxygen on Mars
We know that NASA’s Curiosity rover, a car-sized robotic roamer exploring Mars’ Gale crater, has picked up evidence of organic molecules that contain nitrogen and carbon — two out of six essential and elemental ingredients that give life to all organisms. To compose oxygen on Mars, developers are looking to the basest and oldest of all living organisms: bacteria and algae. In the race to have human missions successfully land on Mars by 2030, one necessity came to the forefront: self-sufficiency.
To grant self-sufficiency to missions, the question of efficiency came into play. Missions won’t be able to carry too much cargo with them, so maintaining a breathable and sustainable source of oxygen was crucial. The neat thing is that manufacturing oxygen on Mars isn’t as artificial as it sounds — it will be much of an organic process, where resources from the planet itself are utilized. For testing purposes, Techshot has devised its own “Mars room,” in which everything from the planet’s atmospheric pressure and day-to-night temperature changes to solar radiation and Martian soil is simulated. Here, scientists are testing out whether the bacteria and algae will correctly use the soil as fuel to make usable oxygen. So far, the experiments have seen that select organisms were able to remove nitrogen from the soil and produce oxygen from it.
The attempt at creating such a stable form of oxygen on Mars is far from futile. NASA envisions that, in the future, small containers containing the most prime of the oxygen-producing organisms will land on the planet and facilitate constructive missions.
Future establishment of biodomes on Mars to organically compound oxygen
With the advent of these self-maintaining manmade ecosystems, the production of oxygen on Mars will take place in biodomes. These will be placed around the surface of the planet, and will also eventually used for oxygen storage. However, before that happens, the first batch of sensor-filled test containers will be drilled underground to detect exactly how much oxygen is produced.