Oxygen on Mars to make human missions 'lighter'text_fields
Washington: Future human missions to the Red Planet may not have to carry heavy oxygen cylinders with them. Scientists are working on ways to produce the life gas on Mars itself.
NASA is looking at creating ecosystems able to support life, for future human missions.
As part of this goal, it is funding 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, www.ign.com reported.
"This is a possible way to support a human mission to Mars, producing oxygen without having to send heavy gas canisters," Eugene Boland, chief scientist at Techshot, was quoted as saying.
"Let's send microbes and let them do the heavy lifting for us," he added.
Techshot's experiments are carried out in a "Mars room" which simulates Mars' atmospheric pressure, day-night temperature changes and the solar radiation.
Using Martian soil, the scientists test the feasibility of using ecosystem-building pioneer organisms to produce oxygen. The organisms could also remove nitrogen from the Martian soil.
Boland believes habitable biodomes that "enclose ecopoiesis-provided oxygen through bacterial or algae-driven conversion systems" could exist on the Martian surface in the near future.
NASA says its goal of landing astronauts on Mars in the 2030s is vital for obtaining evidence of life.
NASA's Curiosity rover recently found evidence of fixed nitrogen and carbon-containing organic molecules - ingredients for life - on Mars' surface.
It is also now thought that ancient Mars held waterways and vast oceans covering its northern hemisphere.