Although the proposition of live human explorations on Mars is alive and well on Planet Earth, NASA and other space agencies still shy away from the idea of actually sending man to the red planet, mainly due to the fact that there are major difficulties — oxygen supply among other things — that are yet to be met by our current technology.
Many scientists have put forward intriguing designs and proposals that can theoretically allow man to live on Mars, and some of them have been seriously considered by astronautical agencies. Another proposal is currently making noise in the space community, as a group of students propose a biological plan to solve the Man-On-Mars oxygen problem.
The German students, led by Robert P. Schröder, believe that by sending cyanobacteria to Mars, humans will be able to effectively terraform the red planet, making it more suitable for future explorers to study and perhaps even settle on Mars.
Why cyanobacteria? Schröder explains the survival capabilities and tenacity of cyanobacteria to Astrowatch.
“Cyanobacteria do live in conditions on Earth where no life would be expected. You find them everywhere on our planet! It is the first step on Mars to test microorganisms.”
Schroder further talked about the team’s choice to choose cyanobacteria for the mission.
“Initial ideas were of a technical nature, but that was too boring for me. In school I liked biotechnology and that have not changed very much. Once I heard of cyanobacteria and how they can survive in harsh conditions on earth and at this special night I had a flashback which grabbed me and convinced me completely.”
The students named the planned project Cyano Knights, drawing inspiration from the ability of the bacteria to survive and persevere on the harshest conditions in space.
“Because of the long history of those Cyanos and their will to survive I named it Cyano Knights and sent the payload proposal instantly to Mars One,” Schröder said.
The idea is that cyanobacteria injected into Mars will be able to survive in the harsh conditions of the planet. They will deliver oxygen into the atmosphere via photosynthesis while absorbing the abundant CO2 in the planet, which composes around 96 percent of the total atmosphere. Over time, the production of oxygen and reduction of CO2 encourages more life-friendly environments, allowing other organisms to thrive.
When asked about the proper amount of bacteria to successfully pull off the mission, Schröder says, “As for now we don’t know that really, because we need to find out the best habitable conditions for each strain to cultivate them and then we have references and can calculate it. We need to test Mars-like conditions and analyze how much energy we have to put into the photobioreactor. So it’s a lot work to do.”
[Image from Valerie Engelleiter/Flickr]