How to make oxygen on Mars: Nasa plans to use oxygen cocktail to support human colony

An Indiana firm is developing a method to make oxygen on Mars for Nasa. Bacteria and algae will use Martian soil as fuel to pump out oxygen. Mars could be scattered with biodomes containing the organisms. And future astronauts could use this oxygen to survive on the surface (artist's illustration shown)
An Indiana firm is developing a method to make oxygen on Mars for Nasa. Bacteria and algae will use Martian soil as fuel to pump out oxygen. Mars could be scattered with biodomes containing the organisms. And future astronauts could use this oxygen to survive on the surface (artist's illustration shown)

Excerpt from dailymail.co.uk

  • An Indiana firm is developing a method to make oxygen on Mars for Nasa
  • Bacteria and algae will use Martian soil as fuel to pump out oxygen
  • Mars could be scattered with biodomes containing the organisms
  • And future astronauts could use this oxygen to survive on the surface

If humans land on Mars in the 2030s as planned, one thing that will be essential to their survival will be self-sufficiency, as they won’t be able to take too much cargo with them.

With this in mind Nasa is testing whether oxygen can be created from Martian soil, without having to carry it all the way from Earth.

The innovative method would see bacteria or algae use the soil as fuel, pumping out usable oxygen in the process for astronauts on the surface.

Nasa has been working with Techshot Inc of Greenville, Indiana to develop this method in a so-called ‘Mars room’, which mimics the conditions on the red planet.
 
It is able to simulate the atmospheric pressure on the planet, in addition to the day-night temperature changes and the solar radiation that hits the surface.

In experiments, certain organisms were capable of producing oxygen from Martian soil - known as regolith - and they also removed nitrogen from it. 

‘This is a possible way to support a human mission to Mars, producing oxygen without having to send heavy gas canisters,’ said Eugene Boland, chief scientist at Techshot.

‘Let’s send microbes and let them do the heavy-lifting for us.’
The research is part of the Nasa Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Programme.

It’s envisioned that biodomes could be scattered across the surface to produce the oxygen needed for humans to survive.

The oxygen produced could also be stored for later use.

But while experiments on Earth are all well and good, the scientists want to test their method actually on Mars in the near future.

The 'Mars room', shown, is able to simulate the atmospheric pressure on the planet, in addition to the day-night temperature changes and the solar radiation that hits the surface. In experiments certain organisms were capable of producing oxygen from Martian soil inside the laboratory
The 'Mars room', shown, is able to simulate the atmospheric pressure on the planet, in addition to the day-night temperature changes and the solar radiation that hits the surface. In experiments certain organisms were capable of producing oxygen from Martian soil inside the laboratory

When humans land on Mars in the future (artist's illustration of the landing shown), they will need to be as self-sufficient as possible
When humans land on Mars in the future (artist's illustration of the landing shown left), they will need to be as self-sufficient as possible.



To do so, an upcoming rover - such as the 2020 Mars rover - could carry small container-like devices with Earth organisms inside.

The containers would be buried a few inches underground in certain locations, to see how successful they are at producing oxygen.

Sensors inside the container would detect how much oxygen was made, and report the findings back to a satellite in Mars orbit.

The scientists note that the container would be sealed tightly, to prevent the organisms being exposed to - and possibly contaminating - the Martian surface.

But if proven successful, future explorers on Mars may use multiple biodomes like this to produce the oxygen they need to survive.