Sea-Dwelling Bacteria Could Help Humans Breathe on Mars

Sea-Dwelling Bacteria Could Help Humans Breathe on Mars

Scientists have high hopes regarding the future Mars colonization now that they found that cyanobacteria, a sea-dwelling bacteria species that absorb all the carbon dioxide from its habitat and release oxygen into the atmosphere. The scientists from the Imperial College London in the United Kingdom studied the cyanobacteria and published the results in the Science journal, last Friday, suggesting that these bacteria could help humans breathe on Mars, for example.

The photosynthesis is the well-known process through which the plants can turn the sunlight into the energy they need for surviving. The sea-dwelling bacteria also use photosynthesis to live, but they do it in very inhospitable environments, such as the deepest and darkest rifts at the bottom of the oceans.

Also differently from plants, which use chlorophyll-a to produce energy from the sunlight, cyanobacteria use chlorophyll-f which makes it possible the transformation of the so-called far-red light (nearly in the infrared spectrum) into energy. This chlorophyll-f compound is what helps these sea-dwelling bacteria live in the darkness of the deep-sea trenches where they are found.

Sea-dwelling bacteria could help humans breathe on Mars

“This work redefines the minimum energy needed in light to drive photosynthesis. This type of photosynthesis may well be happening in your garden, under a rock,” said Jennifer Morton, the study’s co-author.

According to the researchers, space agencies can send cyanobacteria to Mars to reduce the carbon dioxide levels and produce oxygen there, before sending manned missions to put the basis of the future Mars colonization.

“This might sound like science fiction, but space agencies and private companies around the world are actively trying to turn this aspiration into reality in the not-too-distant future. Photosynthesis could theoretically be harnessed with these types of organisms to create air for humans to breathe on Mars,” said Elmars Krausz, a second co-author of the study.

Over time, scientists found that many microorganisms can live in very inhospitable environments on Earth, such as at high temperatures, very low temperatures, low-light conditions, no oxygen conditions, and so on. However, none of these presented the properties of the before-mentioned sea-dwelling bacteria which can actively assist scientists to produce oxygen on the Red Planet and help humans breathe on Mars when the future Mars colonization indeed happens.

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