Bacterial cultures on Mars will produce rocket fuel

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Mankind is feverishly preparing to travel to Mars. Elon Musk has stated that his space company, Space X, will make the first one by the end of the decade at the latest and his goal is to make it around 2025.

The American tycoon has also said that if the mission proves successful, his company will make non-stop flights to Mars so that by 2050 a colony of more than one million people has been created there. NASA for its part is planning its own manned mission with more careful steps and according to the latest information this mission will not take place earlier than 2035.

The issues that space companies and scientists have to solve for such a trip are many and complex. The safe passage and return of passengers, their diet on the trip, the conditions of stay on Mars are some of the issues that scientists must find solutions. If we finally manage to get to the Red Planet and the first bases begin to form and later some colonies maybe a critical issue for many reasons is that of supplies and especially the fuel that rockets and spacecraft will need to launch from its surface. .

Understandably, transporting fuel from Earth will be a difficult, time consuming and costly process. The NASA estimates that the current data transfer to Mars 30 tonnes of methane and liquid oxygen for use as fuel will cost eight billion. Dollars. In a review in the journal Nature Communications, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology in the United States are proposing a revolutionary new method of producing fuel on Mars that does not require transport from Earth.

Researchers are talking about huge photovoltaic reactors that will be installed on Mars. The total installation in which such a reactor will operate will have an area similar to that of a football field. Using sunlight and carbon dioxide (which is abundant in the atmosphere and the soil of Mars) will make it possible through the reactors to grow bacteria which can then be “transformed” into fuel. More specifically, the researchers talk about the production of cyanobacteria that will produce sugars.

A genetically modified bacterium E.coli (a bacterium that lives in the human digestive system) will convert sugars into fuel for rockets and other vehicles. According to the researchers, this method will be able to produce tens of tons of pure oxygen and its treatment will create the chemical 2,3-butanediol. This substance is used to create polymeric materials which in turn are used in the production of synthetic rubber products.

Until now, no one had thought of using this chemical as a fuel, but researchers claim that it can be mass-produced on Mars and act as a fuel. According to researchers, the atmospheric conditions on Mars are such that they require much less energy than rockets to launch in relation to Earth. This, they say, allows scientists to think of various options for creating and using fuel on the Red Planet that would not work on Earth but could prove very effective there.

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