A report presents a proposal to harness photosynthetic bacteria to generate essential materials needed during human and robotic exploration on the surface of Mars. Utilizing an extremely small amount of H2O and an ample amount of CO2 (and N2 and/or other elements and compounds) already present in the Martian environment, along with sunlight as the source of energy, the bacteria would produce O2 and carbon-containing compounds (and nitrogen-containing compounds). The O2 could be used to support human respiration and to burn fuels; the other compounds could be used, variously, to produce food and fuel or to grow green plants other than bacteria to produce food and fuel. The proposal would exploit the inherent capability of bacteria to reproduce and to adapt to changing environmental conditions. Bacteria to implement the proposal would be bred selectively and/or be genetically engineered for the intended applications, starting from candidate strains of natural terrestrial purple and green bacteria and cyanobacteria that can withstand harsh environments.

This work was done by Hamid Kohen of Caltech for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. To obtain a copy of the report, "A Biologically Evolved and Genetically Engineered Bacteria for Facilitating Oxygen Delivery Throughout the Mars Advanced Outpost," access the Technical Support Package (TSP) free on-line at www.nasatech.com/tsp  under the Bio-Medical category.

NPO-20927


This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).
Using Photosynthetic Bacteria to Make Oxygen on Mars

(reference NPO-20927) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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This article first appeared in the October, 2001 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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