Can we make the moon habitable?

TerraformingLife on the Mars: bacteria could it possible do

Whether it makes sense or not: Researchers are working on the idea of ​​living on other planets, such as Mars. Special bacteria could be decisive for this.

Human curiosity is often a powerful driver: Among other things, it was responsible for landing on the moon, observing the universe with spectacular telescopes and researching the question of whether we might someday be able to live on another planet. For example Mars.

The Mars rover Preseverance is currently exploring the red planet. Other scientists are already one step further:

With the idea of ​​terraforming, they are working on a way to make Mars habitable for humans. Terraforming means the transformation of other planets into habitable, earth-like celestial bodies through the use of technology.

The first terrestrial inhabitants on Mars could be special bacteria: cyanobacteria. These are small blue-green cells also called blue-green algae.

What makes the cyanobacteria interesting for terraforming: They produce oxygen. And, according to scientists, they did that on Earth 2.5 billion years ago.

At this point in time, the conditions on earth were still hostile to life. Through photosynthesis and oxygen production, the bacteria have formed a basis for many new forms of life on earth. So they were, so to speak, pioneers of terraforming.

They don't need much to grow and survive: carbon (preferably CO2), a little water and light - that's enough for them to produce biomass and oxygen: the basis for the development of other forms of life such as bacteria, fungi and animals.

In addition, cyanobacteria are very robust. They could survive on Mars for some time, for example the blue-green boulder. On earth, this type of cyanobacteria grows in deserts and on rocks in Antarctica. It only needs a little water to survive. Five to six days of light wetting is sufficient.

There is water on Mars. However, only in frozen form. The average temperature on the planet is minus 60 degrees Celsius. And there is often too little light. So the bacteria couldn't just be spread around Mars with a robot, and the rest would happen on its own. Help has to be given.

The idea of ​​terraforming

Between 1980 and 2000, NASA devised concepts for terraforming. One idea: using mirrors to raise the temperature regionally in places on Mars and thus create a way for the cyanobacteria to grow better.

However, it would take millions of years for them to produce any significant amount of oxygen. And: Terraforming is now seen as a contamination of an alien planet with unforeseeable consequences. That is why the use of cyanobacteria in space travel is now only being researched as a use in closed systems.

At the University of Bremen, for example, experiments are being carried out on this. The cyanobacteria are supposed to produce biomass and oxygen for a Mars station in a reactor. The aim is to produce and recycle the resources that are needed for the station crew to survive on site.

The researchers at the University of Bremen have developed a negative pressure photobioreactor that can create the necessary conditions for bacteria to grow on Mars. Such a reactor could be installed as part of a station on Mars.