When will humans land on Mars? A recent report presented 2038 as the most likely launch year for a manned Mars mission — largely because that’s when Earth and Mars will be closest in the late 2030s — with 2048 classified as the date for a “late launch.”
Human settlement on the red planet could come much later, but if and when it happens there will be huge challenges to overcome. Where will future Martians live? What will they eat? Both questions are starting to be explored by scientists – and some of the initial answers are a bit strange.
Two recent research papers have highlighted the potential importance of human waste and kombucha in building and maintaining a colony on the red planet.
Stinky ‘space rocks’ on Mars
The first hint of a plan to build settlements on Mars comes from a study published in the news PLOS One showing that bacteria and urea from astronauts’ urine can be used to make ‘space rocks’.
Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), in collaboration with the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), think that for the recipe, Martian soil, guar gum, contains a bacterium called Sporosarcina pasteuriiurea and nickel chloride (NiCl2† The resulting slurry in the space can then be poured into molds of any shape, with the bacteria converting the urea into crystals of calcium carbonate. The result would be a sort of cement to hold the soil particles together — and bricks.
“The bacteria seep deep into the pore spaces and use their own proteins to bind the particles together, decreasing porosity and leading to stronger stones,” said Aloke Kumar, an associate professor in IISc’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, one of the senior newspaper authors.
Adding nickel chloride is key, because without it, the iron-rich Martian soil is toxic to the bacteria.
Next is a project to test whether these “space rocks” will withstand the effects of Mars’ thin atmosphere and low gravity, using a chamber that reproduces the atmospheric conditions on Mars in the lab.
Mushroom tea on Mars
A second breakthrough in supporting human life on Mars comes from: kombuchawhose survival in Mars-like conditions was studied by a team of scientists in Germany and Brazil as part of the Biology and Mars Experiment (BIOMEX) project.
Sometimes called tea mushroom or mushroom tea, kombucha is produced by fermenting sugared tea using: kombucha cultures, a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.
the latest newspaper published in this month Frontiers in Microbiologyreveals that the fermentation process of the popular black or green tea allows a cellulosic bacterial species to survive.
That’s important because cellulose — which is likely responsible for the bacteria that survive in alien conditions — could be used on Mars as a preservative, food additive and fiber supplement in alien settlements.
Cellulose based membranes or films can also be useful for producing various consumer goods.
“We found that the simulated Martian environment drastically disrupted the microbial ecology of kombucha cultures,” said Bertram Brenig, head of the Institute of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Göttingen. “However, we were surprised to find that the cellulosic bacteria of the genus” Komagataeibacter survived.”
The same team sent earlier kombucha cultures to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2014.
It’s useful information for future Mars settlers, but it also suggests that bacterial cellulose could be a biomarker for extraterrestrial life.
If humans ever want to settle on Mars, a lot of scientific research needs to be done beforehand. “I’m so excited that many researchers around the world are thinking about colonizing other planets,” said Kumar of the “space rocks” team. “It may not be going fast, but people are actively working on it.”
I wish you a clear sky and big eyes.
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