Scientists trying to generate oxygen and nitrogen on Mars from bacteria

Mars could someday host human life. Those are the words we have been hearing here on Earth for years now, and with all of the money that’s being invested into studying the Red Planet it would be the logical outcome. Ultimately, we’re still decades away from seeing human life on Mars but two very important things are being worked on by researchers and scientists when it comes to the Red Planet. Scientists have been trying to crack the code that is Mars’ atmosphere for nearly 50 years and some of the research being executed right now suggests that methane and oxygen could be present.

When it comes to Mars containing methane there has been a ton of debate on the matter for years. It has been something that scientists have battled over for the last 10-15 years as various reports and measurements conflicted each other. Essentially, for every report that has either confirmed or denied the notion that there is methane on Mars has been published – another report goes against the original findings. After the most-recent readings though, which revealed that there were sudden spikes, or bursts of methane NASA scientist Kevin Zahnle reignited confusion when he spoke at a seminar. Zahnle said, “I am convinced that they really are seeing methane. But I’m thinking that it has to be coming from the rover.”

Not everyone though has been critical of the various findings, like Zahnle has been. Chris Webster who is a member of the Curiosity team said, “We are continuously monitoring that methane amount and there hasn’t been evidence of any leakage during the entire mission.” He continued by pointing out that, “While it’s true that the concentration of methane in that chamber is 1,000 times higher than in Mars’s atmosphere, the comparison is actually misleading. You have to look at the amount of methane, not the concentration.” That has proven to be the major point of contention for those engaging in this debate.


However, scientists want to make this issue one that can’t be debated. NASA is currently funding a company to create oxygen on Mars. Specifically, the company is utilizing bacteria and various forms of algae to actually create an oxygen rich atmosphere. At this point, it would seem as though this is the last step to really creating an atmosphere that can be sustainable in the long-term.

This has become one of the biggest missions for scientists studying Mars. Getting oxygen on the Red Planet is something that has seemed like a fantasy, but now this company has managed to create a Mars room, where it duplicates the settings of Mars from an atmospheric perspective, and allows them to create oxygen.

Eugene Boland of Techshot Inc. pointed out that “This is a possible way to support a human mission to Mars, producing oxygen without having to send heavy gas canisters.” It would prove to be a major success for studying Mars and understanding how we could eventually get human life onto the planet for a long period of time. However, just as with the presence of methane, much of this is research that would require years of testing before any such thing could be applied.


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  • It’s pointless unless Mars has a functioning magnetic field. The loss of it’s field is what caused Mars to loose atmosphere and turn it into a sunbaked radioactive wasteland. It’s theorized that it’s core is now cold. Cold core, no magnetic field. No field, no protection from the solar wind and all that wonderful radiation.

    • Actually there are remnants of a magnetic field, just not a solid cohesive one like Earth’s and the larger planets’, and not as strong. They may be enough to deflect some of the particles in limited areas, like being under a tree when it rains can keep you drier than standing out in the open. Definitely not good for long-term, though, granted.

    • Not totally pointless, if you can find a point source of methane sufficient to support an enclosed atmosphere. I suspect that when scientists talk to journalists about creating “atmosphere” some of the intent might be lost in translation.