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#1 2018-10-29 05:29:56

jfenciso
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From: Philippines
Registered: 2018-10-27
Posts: 58

Utilization and Issues of Algae for Martian Colonization

Share your insights about utilization and issues of algae for Martian colonization.


I'm Jayson from the Philippines. I am a Master's degree student in University of the Philippines Los Banos, Laguna. My major is Botany (specializing in Plant Physiology), and minor in Agronomy. My research interests are Phytoremediation, Plant-Microbe Interaction, Plant Nutrition, and Plant Stress Physiology.

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#2 2018-10-29 09:05:36

louis
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From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 5,176

Re: Utilization and Issues of Algae for Martian Colonization

Algae can be harmful on Earth.  I think we need to be extremely careful about deploying it on Mars in the restricted habs. Presumably it could have a positive role to play in terraformation eventually.

jfenciso wrote:

Share your insights about utilization and issues of algae for Martian colonization.


Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars blogspot.com

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#3 2018-10-29 12:59:52

louis
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From: UK
Registered: 2008-03-24
Posts: 5,176

Re: Utilization and Issues of Algae for Martian Colonization

Of course chimps are partial to algae!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEk_sNYAyCo


Let's Go to Mars...Google on: Fast Track to Mars blogspot.com

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#4 2018-10-29 13:31:25

Void
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Registered: 2011-12-29
Posts: 3,011

Re: Utilization and Issues of Algae for Martian Colonization

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spirulina … upplement)
A cyanobacteria actually.

It has to be done with a certain PH that prohibits toxic microbes from growing also.

Done


I like people who criticize angels dancing on a pinhead.  I also like it when angels dance on my pinhead.

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#5 2019-12-01 22:39:07

SpaceNut
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From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 16,726

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#6 2019-12-01 23:41:17

RobertDyck
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From: Winnipeg, Canada
Registered: 2002-08-20
Posts: 5,821
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Re: Utilization and Issues of Algae for Martian Colonization

A couple points I've posted about.

1) Life Support. A spacecraft has very restrictive space. And life support has to be quick, you can't have a huge bioreactor recycle human waste (feces & urine) to produce food over a period of years. A spacecraft must have compact equipment that works over hours. I suggested harvesting in-vitro chloroplasts from leaves of plants, put them in transparent plastic bags of sterile water with CO2, shine sunlight. This will convert H2O + CO2 to produce O2 and sugar. Chloroplasts will polymerize that sugar to produce complex carbohydrates; which carbohydrate depends which plant you got the chloroplast from. The easiest plant to get chloroplasts is peas; that will produce pea starch. In-vitro chloroplasts won't live forever, but if we can get them to function for several months at a time, we can bring replacement bags frozen. Just thaw a batch of bags when replacements are necessary.

2) Terraforming. First warm Mars sufficiently to sublimate all dry ice. That will increase atmospheric pressure sufficiently that humans can walk outdoors without a pressure suit. It will still be a CO2 atmosphere, so settlers will need an oxygen mask, but that's a lot better than a spacesuit. Continue to warm Mars to melt water ice, so rain falls. Once that happens, we can grow peat bogs. I wrote that we can grind rock in vast fields, creating rock flour to a depth of 2 metres. Water pumps, each powered by a solar panel and battery, will circulate water through the rock flour. With a slow sand filter at the pump intake under the rock flour to ensure it doesn't get clogged. Peat will produce acid to break down rock, releasing nutrients and convert rock into clay. Grinding rock into rock flour will accelerate the process. Loess is natural rock flour. This will create a mixture of loess, clay, and peat. That's ideal soil. Breaking down rock with acid will release alkali, that will have to be filtered out with a lime water filter. Once the peat bog has sufficiently converted rock flour to clay and nutrients, then neutralize pH by adding lime back in.

This involves algae because peat is a symbiosis of sphagnum moss and cyanobacteria, very similar to algae, and in some cases algae itself. The cyanobacteria and/or algae takes nitrogen from atmosphere to produce nitrates in water. Sphagnum moss produces acid that breaks down minerals of rock to release potassium, phosphorus, and micro-nutrients. Cyanobacteria, algae and sphagnum moss fix CO2 from air to produce organic compounds. Together peat only needs air, rain, sunlight, and rock to produce soil. Grinding rock into rock flour just speeds the process, so it takes a decade or two instead of multiple millennia.

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#7 2019-12-02 06:09:42

Calliban
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From: Northern England, UK
Registered: 2019-08-18
Posts: 181

Re: Utilization and Issues of Algae for Martian Colonization

Excellent post Robert.

I think algae will be an important food source on Mars.  There are hundreds of thousands of different species, some edible, many are not.  A quote from Wiki:

'Algae cost more per unit mass than other second-generation biofuel crops due to high capital and operating costs,[9] but are claimed to yield between 10 and 100 times more fuel per unit area.' Taken from:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algae_fuel

This suggests that microalgae will yield far more food per unit area than land crops grown in a greenhouse.  Given how expensive it will be to build pressurised greenhouses on Mars, there will be strong economic drivers to harvest efficient food crops.  Algae can also be pumped through transparent pipes, that do not require human presence for cultivation or harvesting.

If plants are grown under synthetic light, the efficiency of converting electrical energy into caloric energy is equal to:

Efficiency of LED in growth optimised frequency x photosynthetic efficiency of algae x proportion of harvested energy captured as calories.

Does anyone have any figures for these?  Ultimately, if human beings can affordably produce food using an artificial thermonuclear energy source, then we could live almost anywhere with the necessary raw materials.

Second question: You talk about warming Mars to release enough CO2 for Humans to dispense with pressure suits.  That would require about 200mbar of CO2 a column density of about 5 tonnes per square metre.  It was my understanding that Mars was unlikely to have that much dry ice lurking beneath its regolith?

Last edited by Calliban (2019-12-02 06:18:30)


Interested in space science, engineering and technology.

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#8 2019-12-02 11:41:16

RobertDyck
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From: Winnipeg, Canada
Registered: 2002-08-20
Posts: 5,821
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Re: Utilization and Issues of Algae for Martian Colonization

41lxpOGo83L._AC_UY218_ML3_.jpg
(click image for Amazon web page for this book)

This book cites two science papers. One estimates Mars has enough dry ice to produce 200 mbar surface pressure, the other estimates 300 mbar. This book is copyright 1995, so before modern Mars probes. I've asked several scientists to update estimates of Mars CO2, but everyone I spoke with refused. So references cited in the book...

Rasool, S.I. and Le Sergeant, L., "Volatile Outgassing from Earth and Mars: Implications of the Viking Results," Nature, 266, 822-823, 1977.

Anders, E. and Owen, T., "Mars and Earth: Origin and Abundance of Volatiles," Science, 198, 453-465, 1977.

McElroy, M.B., Kong, T.Y. and Yung, Y.L, "Photochemistry and Evolution of Mars' Atmosphere: A Viking Perspective," J. Geophys. Res., 82, 4379-4388, 1977.

Clark, B.C. and Baird, A.K., "Volatiles in the Martian Regolith," Geophys. Res. Lett., 6, 811-814, 1979.

Pollack, J.B. and Blac, D.B., "Noble Gases in Planetary Atmospheres: Implications for the Origin and Evolution of Atmosheres," Icarus, 51, 169-198, 1979.

Car, M.H. "Mars: A Water-Rich Planet?" Icarus, 68, 187-216, 1986.

Dreibus, G. and Wänke, H., "Volatiles on Earth and Mars. A Comparison," Icarus, 71, 225-240, 1987.

Greeley, R., "Release of Juvenile Water on Mars: Estimated Amounts of Timing Associated with Volcanism," Science, 236, 1653-1654, 1987.

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#9 2019-12-02 13:58:28

Terraformer
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From: Lancashire
Registered: 2007-08-27
Posts: 3,145
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Re: Utilization and Issues of Algae for Martian Colonization

My understanding is that, as long as your chest is pressurised, you need ~70mb of pressure for the rest of your body.


"I guarantee you that at some point, everything's going to go south on you, and you're going to say, 'This is it, this is how I end.' Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work." - Mark Watney

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#10 2019-12-02 14:35:01

RobertDyck
Moderator
From: Winnipeg, Canada
Registered: 2002-08-20
Posts: 5,821
Website

Re: Utilization and Issues of Algae for Martian Colonization

Lower pressure in your extremities results in blood pooling. My understanding is you need more than 70mb. Pressure for extremities can be a bit lower, but not that low. Dr Paul Webb studied this in 1967-1971, I'm saying this based on his work.

A US Air Force study found pilots can breathe lower pressure. A strong individual in his/her prime, with high altitude training, can breathe 2.5 psi (170 mbar) pure oxygen indefinitely and remain conscious. An individual can breathe 2.0 psi (138 mbar) pure oxygen and remain conscious up to 30 minutes before blacking out. That low it's just a question when you black out, not whether. At 3.0 psi (~200 mbar) pure oxygen anyone can breathe indefinitely; you don't need any high altitude training, and anyone can do it: young, old, senior citizens.

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#11 2019-12-02 20:26:24

SpaceNut
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From: New Hampshire
Registered: 2004-07-22
Posts: 16,726

Re: Utilization and Issues of Algae for Martian Colonization

So for the algea to survive what sort of a structure and lighting energy must we have to supply it with the needed food for it to survive so as to do its thing to help man survive....

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