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Microbes Might Be Key to Mars Missions

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    Microbes Might Be Key to Mars Missions

    Since I haven't done one of these posts in a while.

    Microbes Might Be Key to a Mars Mission - Scientific American Blog Network

    Picture a group of adventurous companions setting out into the great frontier to explore a barren, wild land. They must bring only the most important things they’ll need to survive on their own. Every ounce of weight they decide to take with them means another ounce they must transport. It sounds like an extreme backpacking trip, but I’m actually talking about a future mission to the surface of Mars.

    We take for granted all the things we have on Earth that support human life—air for breathing, water for drinking and nutrients in the soil that allow us to grow food. On Mars, however, astronauts will need to bring their own life support systems, which can be prohibitively costly to transport. Without a lightweight flexible technology that can manufacture a variety of products using limited resources, the first Mars explorers won’t survive their journey.

    Typically, microbes are considered a threat to space missions because they could cause illnesses. But non-pathogenic microbes might in fact be part of the solution for getting to Mars. Microbes can convert a wide variety of raw materials into a large number of essential products. Using engineering principles, synthetic biology can be harnessed to turn microbes into tiny programmable factories.

    I began to study yeast as way to make chemicals when I joined the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Department at Clemson University in 2012. My research group works with a type of yeast called Yarrowia lipolytica, which efficiently makes fatty acids in the form of trigylcerides from a wide variety of low-value waste streams. Using genetic engineering, it is possible to add genes from other organisms to enable production of derivatives of fatty acids, such as biofuels, precursors for adhesives and nutraceuticals.
    Rusakov's Signature
    "You drongos will have to do better than that if you want to beat the devil!"-Hugh Dawkins, alias: Tasmanian Devil
  • #2

    You know, there's a lot of exciting developments going on in the pursuit of Mars. A lot of people say "We're not going to Mars." but I think there's a real shot at it. There are many known problems we need to solve to get there, and there will be unknowns once we do get there, but I do think we will in fact make it there eventually.

    When you look at it, Microbes are little tiny machines. It doesn't surprise me that we're now looking at non-pathogenic microbes for making stuff.

    So how long do you figure before the first successful Martian landing?
    Daryn's Signature



    “Just when you think humanity has found the limits of stupid, they go and ratchet up the standard by another notch.” - Bob

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    • #3

      Originally posted by Daryn View Post
      So how long do you figure before the first successful Martian landing?
      20 years from 20 years from now.
      Rusakov's Signature
      "You drongos will have to do better than that if you want to beat the devil!"-Hugh Dawkins, alias: Tasmanian Devil

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