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Building Habitable Colonies On Mars: Uncovering New Frontiers

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There are a lot of factors that have forced mankind to think that they would have to leave their home planet one day and find solace on another. One of those major causes is us, ourselves. We have been a major cause to the depreciating living conditions on planet Earth, but we do need to survive and go ahead into the future, therefore, we have been searching far and wide in space for alternative planets like our home. As of now, we have our eyes set on Mars aka The Red Planet. It has a climate which we can control and make it more suitable for us. It has frozen water and a Carbon dioxide plus Nitrogen rich environment, which is good for the growth of small edible microorganisms. That solves a little bit of the food problem we would have, if we go to live on mars in the future.

The future is still a little far off. So, let’s see what is happening right now to make that future possible. It is common knowledge that sending astronauts to Mars and then keeping them safe and alive is no easy feat to achieve. There are so many hurdles and one of them is to build a shelter with enough oxygen and food rations to provide for the people living there because shipping the basic amenities from Earth will be very expensive and to be exact, it will be$300,000 per kilogram, on top of that they will take 6 months to reach Mars which is unreasonable. Therefore, the astronauts will have to grow food on the Martian soil itself, which is where we find another problem that is anything that will grow on Martian soil will be toxic to human and animals, but we do have a solution for that as of now. Cyanobacteria or algae can be used as a renewable source of food they are very safe to eat and have been eaten by the humans since the 1970s as a supplement. But we won’t only survive on microbes so we’ll have to grow our own food. Then we’ll need to 3D print our shelters/houses for which we’ll need large sized printers. The above two examples are only few of the problems that we might face. (epicenter, 2017)

To solve these problems, huge companies like SpaceX, The Boring Company and Synthetic Biology Australia have been continuously working and innovating to come up with creative solutions and one of those is a new up-coming technology, it’s called Synthetic biology, with it we will be able to make our lives much easier in the Martian environment. Synbio is all about reprogramming micro-organisms, for example bacteria, to get better or different uses out of them. Using synbio we can simply develop biological solutions for many of the problems our astronauts will need to solve on Mars.

In an ongoing address on Mars colonization, Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors stated, 'I imagine that Mars is going to be an incredible spot to go. It will be the planet of chance.' Mankind's first mission to Mars is getting nearer and nearer — SpaceX would like to arrive by 2022. Extraterrestrial colonization is a test worth ascending to, yet getting to Mars is just a little piece of the condition. The more concerning issue to unravel is in what manner will we endure once we arrive? In principle, getting by on Mars will be conceivable – and gratitude to an intensity of ongoing exploration, a significant number of the difficulties we will face might be helped by built natural frameworks. It's time we talk about manufactured science in space! (Musk, 2017)

It sounds self-evident, yet one of the primary difficulties behind any space travel is keeping the space explorers alive so far from Earth and its assets. At the point when the primary Mars space travelers land, all they will discover is residue and rocks, and possibly some water. All that they have to endure should be conveyed with them to the red planet. In any case, it's not as basic as pressing everything. Transporting anything to Mars will cost about $300,000 per kilogram, so decreasing the heaviness of the heap is the contrast between Mars being monetarily attainable, or only a dream land.

A major problem will be acquiring food on mars. At present we have a make shift solution which consists of the early inhabitants of Mars to eat algae and cyanobacteria. These are microorganisms that can grow in the Martian environment, which consists 95.32% Carbon dioxide and 2.7% Nitrogen. These are the ideal conditions for these microbes, on top of that a partial good news is that, this kind of an environment also promotes the growth of other normal plants too, so we can have other kinds of fruits and vegetables too, but here is the bad part of the news is that anything that grows on the Martian soil will be toxic for us humans and animals.

Another problem that we would face on The Red Planet, is where would we live? As Mar’s environment does not have oxygen therefore it will also not have an Ozone Layer, like Earth does to protect us from the harmful UV rays of the sun. So making a dome on the surface of mars will be very expensive and we’d still get sunburnt. Therefore, alternatives are being thought about and going to other planets does not make sense, for example Venus earlier was thought to have potential but, its closer to the sun and bound to be hotter. Jupiter’s moon is a good option as it has an atmosphere suitable for us but, it’s too far away for us to reach just yet.

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Mars for us is a prime alternative to Earth. Here are characteristic differences (Musk, 2017):

When the astronauts move out beyond shelters, eventually all the rations will run out and transporting food ration every time to Mars would not make sense, on top of that every shipment will take 3 to 6 months to reach Mars. Therefore, our initial inhabitants of Mars would have to become green thumbed farmers, be self-sufficient and make food for themselves. Anything that would be grown on the soil of mars would be toxic for humans but microbes can grow and as by-product produce oxygen to replenish the air with that gas.

The solution right now is called Synthetic Biology or Synbio for short. As said above, it is all about reprogramming the DNA. It allows scientists to create and recombine modular DNA parts that snap together like LEGO bricks. When combined, they can encode useful cellular functions, like degradation pathways or chemical synthesis.

As engineered microbes can reproduce themselves so easily, transporting them to Mars will be very easy is small tubes in frozen condition, making them the perfect candidate for light weight resources on a space mission. Coming back to Synbio, using these methods we could increase the level of nutritional value in these organisms and then experiment with different flavors. With it we could even generate medicines and other necessities like vitamins, essential amino acids and more. If we want to mitigate the toxins in the soil of Mars, that can also be done with the help of Synbio. In order to grow anything in Martian soil, we need to remove perchlorates before they bio-accumulate in crops. Luckily, Dechloromonas aromatica is a harmless bacteria that is able to degrade these compounds, though unfortunately it is incredibly slow-growing. Instead, by introducing the perchlorate-degrading genes into faster-growing bacteria, yeast, or the roots of plants, we would be able to detoxify some of the soil (with much more on this topic in our previous blog) and start growing crops that are edible. Dutch researchers have even prepared a dinner from vegetables grown on simulated Martian soil to prove it is, in theory, possible to grow crops on Mars. (epicenter, 2017)

During the whole trip, there is a high chance that any of our astronauts can fall sick. A doctor would obviously be present on the team but stocking all types of medicines is difficult and sometimes impossible. Synbio can help here to, many of the medicines we use are naturally produced by a bacterium, fungus or plant, or are based on such compounds. Synthetic biology could help develop just a handful of species that can produce them all. To become useful micro-pharmacists, we could equip bacterial strains with a number of existing genetic pathways that encode the complex medicinal compounds.

In case of our living situation on Mars, The Boring Company by Elon Musk has been up with ideas and are working on making colonies under the surface of Mars. The whole idea here is not make a huge glass dome with a city inside which is shown in most type of space movies, no, it is more on the side of practicality that this idea was thought about. If an underground colony is built, then we won’t have to worry about the harmful UV rays that penetrates the Martian atmosphere as it has no Ozone layer and that stands as a huge problem.

An underground colony, will easily be able to avoid all these problems. It will be easier to control the light and the climate underground. If we are underground, we can also be tension free about the asteroids that fall on Mar’s surface time to time.

All in all Synbio Australia and The Boring Company have been having a go at these ideas for a new world. They have been constantly innovating and been coming up with new ideas which would make our living in this new Martian environment a bit more easy. Stay up to date with what all these companies are doing to make a habitable future on the Red Planet by reading up on these topics with the help of the references. Come up with new and unique ideas to help make a better future.

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Building Habitable Colonies On Mars: Uncovering New Frontiers. (2022, February 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 4, 2024, from
“Building Habitable Colonies On Mars: Uncovering New Frontiers.” Edubirdie, 21 Feb. 2022,
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