WASHINGTON, May 14 — NASA is funding a US-based company that aims to produce breathable oxygen on Mars using organisms such as bacteria or algae to pave the way for manned colonies on the red planet.
The Indiana-based company has developed a "Mars room," which plays host to a test chamber capable of emulating the inhospitable conditions prevailing on the red planet.
In the Mars room, chief scientist Eugene Boland at Techshot Inc is exploring the potential of using ecosystem-building pioneer organisms such as bacteria or algae as oxygen factories.
The organisms would use Mars' ample supply of regolith as fuel, and may even serve a dual purpose in removing nitrogen from the Martian soil.
The research is a vital aspect to any serious attempt to create an outpost on Mars. Any colony established on the red planet would be isolated from the homeworld by roughly 225.3 million km, with the average time between re-supply missions expected to be around 500 days.
Furthermore cargo mass has to be factored into the equation, and NASA would be keen to free up as much space as possible by doing away with the need to transport oxygen and other gasses, 'Gizmag' reported.
"This is a possible way to support a human mission to Mars, producing oxygen without having to send heavy gas canisters," said Boland.
For the first test, Boland and his team expect to see their research touch down on Mars in a rover carrying an experimental test bed housing extremophile organisms such as cyanobacteria.
The container would be drilled into the Martian surface, capturing a sample of alien soil in the process.
As the specimens proceed to interact with the soil, the capsule will analyze the sealed environment for signs of oxygen or other metabolic products, transmitting its findings back to Earth via a Mars-orbiting satellite. (PNA/Xinhua)