Create Breathable Air on Mars

Jun 10, 2024
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Creating breathable air on Mars, where the atmosphere is composed primarily of carbon dioxide (CO₂), presents significant challenges. However, there are several approaches being researched and developed to achieve this goal. Here's an outline of some methods:

1. In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU)

This involves using the resources available on Mars to produce what is needed.

MOXIE (Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment)​

  • Process: Electrolysis of carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere.
  • Reaction: 2CO2→2CO+O22 \text{CO}_2 \rightarrow 2 \text{CO} + \text{O}_22CO2→2CO+O2
  • Equipment: MOXIE, an experiment on NASA's Perseverance rover, aims to demonstrate this technology.

2. Chemical Conversion

  • Sabine Process: Converts CO₂ and hydrogen into methane and water using a nickel catalyst.
    • Reaction: CO2+4H2→CH4+2H2O\text{CO}_2 + 4 \text{H}_2 \rightarrow \text{CH}_4 + 2 \text{H}_2\text{O}CO2+4H2→CH4+2H2O
  • Water Electrolysis: Splits water into oxygen and hydrogen.
    • Reaction: 2H2O→2H2+O22 \text{H}_2\text{O} \rightarrow 2 \text{H}_2 + \text{O}_22H2O→2H2+O2

3. Biological Methods

  • Algae and Cyanobacteria: Use photosynthesis to convert CO₂ and sunlight into oxygen.
    • Equation: 6 CO2+6 H2O+light→C6H12O6+6 O2\text{6 CO}_2 + \text{6 H}_2\text{O} + \text{light} \rightarrow \text{C}_6\text{H}_{12}\text{O}_6 + \text{6 O}_26 CO2+6 H2O+light→C6H12O6+6 O2

4. Importing Oxygen

  • Transport from Earth: Initially, oxygen could be transported from Earth, although this is not sustainable long-term due to cost and logistics.

Implementation Considerations​

  1. Energy Requirements: All methods require significant energy input, which can come from solar panels or nuclear reactors.
  2. Infrastructure: Developing robust and reliable systems to support continuous oxygen production.
  3. Redundancy and Safety: Multiple systems and backups to ensure a stable supply of breathable air.

Steps to Create Breathable Air on Mars​

  1. Assess Resources: Determine the availability of water ice and CO₂ in the local environment.
  2. Select Appropriate Technology: Choose between MOXIE, Sabine process, or biological methods based on specific mission requirements.
  3. Develop Infrastructure: Build and test the necessary infrastructure for oxygen production and storage.
  4. Continuous Monitoring: Implement systems for monitoring air quality and ensuring the stability of oxygen levels.
These methods and considerations form the foundation for creating a breathable atmosphere on Mars for future missions and potential colonization.
IF you could make it, could you keep it? What holds and keeps our air? Is it gravity or is it an EM field and an ionization boundary?

To have life any where one needs a large body of liquid water. And a zillion life forms in it. There has to be a recycling of nutrients and energy. Steady environments for generational recycling.

A tall order. I don't think we're ready.

Mental heath and disease, local food production and low resource geo-power is much more obtainable. This planet can be mended.

The real terra forming was done in the Amazon long ago. Before refined chemicals. And we forgot how to do it.
Mass of Mar's atmosphere is 2.5e16 kg.
It is 96% CO2.
It's pressure at the surface is 4.6 mm Hg.
If the oxygen was freed from the CO2 molecules its partial pressure would be 3.3 mm Hg.
The highest permanent human habitation is at 18,000 feet where the O2 partial pressure is 76 mm.
Mars has a frozen cap of CO2 with a mass of 1% that of its water ice, thus is insignificant. Releasing all CO2 on Mars would increase the atmospheric pressure only about 50%.

There is lots of water ice in the polar caps. The northern cap contains 821,000 cubic kilometers of water ice. This is 8e17 kg, It contains 7e17 kg oxygen. This would provide an atmosphere of 150 mm O2, about that at the Earth's surface.
Life on Ganymede would be domed. Simply because/if more water exists on Ganymede, than on Earth. I imagine that if humans ever do get to colonize another of our solar systems bodies it will be Ganymede.

Nothing against Mars it's just that the environment as is on mars might give humans one or two chances to get it right. Sure, we could argue that the environment on Gany is worse. But then again with water being the key to success. Then good ole Mede has it hands down.
I haven't seen or heard of any fossil fuel sources for the production car fuel on Ganymede. So, I think any individual type of transportation would have to be battery electric (snowmobiles?), transporting refined fossil fuels would be extra ordinarily expensive.
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the foundation for creating a breathable atmosphere on Mars for future missions and potential colonization.
Sounds like you are talking about making the atmosphere of Mars itself breathable - extremely unrealistic - rather than make small amounts of suitable air for use in pressurized heated habitats, which is less unrealistic.

Not convinced we'll have any crewed missions to Mars, which will likely have to stay a time waiting for the return window, but if there are they may well try to reduce their payload requirements by exploiting local resources. Fuel for return as per NASA and SpaceX proposals, making oxygen for air - but only where the equipment for that is significantly less to carry.

I expect further exploration of Mars will remain robotic for the foreseeable future.

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