When it’s next robot arrives on Mars, Nasa is planning to make oxygen from its atmosphere.
Scientists will send microbial life possibly algae or bacteria on the 2020 Rover mission in a bid to create air fit for human consumption.
The researchers will aim to feed the microorganisms in Martian soil in the hope that they will pump out oxygen as a byproduct. It can then be made available for breathing or used as rocket fuel to power return flights to Earth.
If the experiment is successful it will mark a major step towards making Mars habitable for human colonies in the future. At this moment, the atmosphere on Mars is composed of about 0.13% oxygen, surrounded by 95% carbon dioxide and a smaller amount of nitrogen and argon. In comparison, Earth’s atmosphere is made of 78% nitrogen and 21% oxygen, with trace amounts of other elements.
Nasa acting chief administrator Robert Lightfoot told Futurism, “Mars 2020, has an experiment where we are going to try and actually generate oxygen out of the atmosphere on Mars, clearly that’s for human capability down the road.” The space agency also has plans to build a magnetic shield around Mars and to install a nuclear reactor on the planet. They hope to launch a lunar space station near the Moon that will act as a starting point for missions to the rest of the solar system.
Lightfoot said it was a logical next step after the success of the International Space Station. “When you look at our plans today, we use the International Space Station as much as we can.” Canadian American businessman Elon Musk has announced plans to colonise Mars and said an optimistic cost would be around $10 billion per person.