NASA could use the bacteria grown on Mars to make rocket fuel. NASA could save $8 BILLION by transporting 30 tonnes of methane or liquid oxygen to Mars.

  • NASA would have to spend $8 billion on extra rocket fuel for Mars missions 
  • Scientists now propose to make rocket fuel on Mars from natural resources
  • Photoreactors would use CO2 and sunlight to grow cyanobacteria
  • E.coli from Earth could be engineered to convert sugars into a Mars-specific propellant. 

NASA plans to place human boots on Mars sometime between the 2030s and 2040s. However, it could prove costly to leave the Red Planet. It will cost $8 billion for 30 tons of liquid oxygen and methane to power return rockets.

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology propose a way to grow bacteria on Mars, which can then be used to make fuel.

The team is planning to build massive photobioreactors that will use sunlight and carbon to produce cyanobacteria on Mars.

An engineered E.coli would be shipped from Earth to convert these sugars into a Mars-specific propellant.

This method not only dramatically reduces costs but also produces 44 tons of oxygen that could be used to support human colonization.  

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Scientists want to built photoreactors on Mars that would transform bacteria into rocket fuel instead of NASA spending $8 billion to send extra fuel on missions

Scientists propose to build photoreactors for Mars that convert bacteria into rocket fuel, instead of NASA spending $8B to send additional fuel on missions. 

The Martian propellant, 2,3-butanediol (also known as 2,3-butanediol), is not a concept. However, it is used on Earth for making polymers for rubber production.

Wenting Sun, an associate professor at the Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering, stated in a statement that ‘2,3-butanediol is a well-known propellant, but we never considered using it.

“After an analysis and preliminary experimental work, we discovered that it is actually a suitable candidate.”

The Nature Communications paper describes the process that would take place on Mars. It starts with transporting plastic materials, which would create photoreactors the size of football fields on the Red Planet.

Not only does this method dramatically cut costs, but researchers say the new process generates 44 tons of clean oxygen that could support human colonization

Researchers claim that this new method generates 44 tons clean oxygen, which could be useful for human colonization.

Four modules would make up the photoreactors, including a cyanobacteria-growing area that uses photosynthesis (a process which requires both carbon dioxide as well as sunlight).

A separate reactor would have enzymes that would break down the cyanobacteria into sugars. This would be fed to E. coli to make the rocket propellant.

The propellant would then be separated from the E. coli fermentation stock using advanced separation methods to produce a 95% pure rocket fuel.

The research of the team shows that bio-ISRU is 32 percent more efficient than the current option to ship methane from Earth and produce oxygen via chemical catalysis. 

First sunlight and CO2 would grow cyanobacteria that produces sugars, which are fed to E. coli to produce the rocket propellant

First sunlight and CO2 would grow cyanobacteria that produces sugars, which are fed to E. coli to produce the rocket propellant

Pamela Peralta-Yahya, a corresponding author of the study and an associate professor in the School of Chemistry & Biochemistry, said in a statement: ‘You need a lot less energy for lift-off on Mars, which gave us the flexibility to consider different chemicals that aren’t designed for rocket launch on Earth.

“We began to think of ways to take advantage planet’s lower gravity, lack of oxygen, and create solutions that aren’t relevant for Earth launches.

NASA’s timeline to send humans to Mars has been changing over the years. This is because the mission heavily depends on Americans landing on the moon first.

The latest news suggests that 2037 could be the year.