Surviving on Mars – thanks to cyanobacteria
Cyanobacteria may be able to thrive even in the inhospitable conditions on Mars. They are excellent oxygen producers and could enable astronauts to survive self-sufficiently on future missions.
Cyanobacteria are known primarily as blue-green algae, which can rapidly bloom in lakes during the summer. According to researchers, the potential of these bacteria – producing oxygen through photosynthesis – could be fully exploited on Mars. This ability is common to almost all plants, but cyanobacteria are among the few that could thrive on the nutrients available on Mars.
This was discovered by researchers at the University of Bremen, Germany. In their lab, they found that the bacteria reproduce excellently when exposed to an atmosphere that is similar to that on Mars – both in terms of carbon/nitrogen mix and atmospheric pressure. According to a statement issued by the researchers, “the growth achieved considerably exceeded expectations”.
Utilizing the local resources on Mars
Self-sustaining biological life support systems will play an important role for future Mars missions, as the trip there takes around nine months, depending on the constellation the two planets. In addition to the long travel time, safety aspects and transportation costs will also make it difficult to ensure a continuous flow of vital supplies to astronauts on Mars.
Thanks to a life support system based on cyanobacteria, the crews could draw on local resources and thus significantly reduce their dependence on Earth.