Ecopoiesis – planting an ecosystem on Mars


Taming the brutal environment of Mars for future human explorers to survive and thrive there may demand a touch of “ecopoiesis” – the creation of an ecosystem able to support life.

The NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) Program is funding cutting-edge work by Eugene Boland, chief scientist at Techshot Inc. of Greenville, Indiana. The scientist has been busy working in the firm’s “Mars room,” which houses a test chamber capable of simulating the Red Planet’s atmospheric pressure, day-night temperature changes and the solar radiation that cascades upon the planet’s surface.

An experiment for planting on Mars designed to evaluate oxygen-producing techniques that could support future human habitats on the Red Planet.

Inside the Mars room, Boland and his team are testing the viability of using ecosystem-building pioneer organisms to churn out oxygen by using Martian regolith. Some organisms within the test bed experiment planted on the Red Planet also could remove nitrogen from the Martian soil.

“This is a possible way to support a human mission to Mars, producing oxygen without having to send heavy gas canisters,” Boland saaid. “Let’s send microbes and let them do the heavy-lifting for us.”

Ultimately, biodomes on Mars that enclose ecopoiesis-provided oxygen through bacterial or algae-driven conversion systems might dot the Red Planet, housing expeditionary teams, Boland suggests.

But first things first.

Selected organisms

Boland and his colleagues envision their test bed gear carried aboard a future Mars rover. At carefully selected sites, the small container-like devices would be augured into the ground, planted just a few inches in depth. Then the selected Earth organisms — extremophiles like certain cyanobacteria – would interact with the Mars soil that has been captured within the container.

Yet another possible ingredient extracted from the Martian soil is in the form of subterranean ice.

Boland says that NASA’s Curiosity rover now wheeling about on Mars has shown the pressure and temperature on the planet “flirts at the idea” that liquid water may be possible on that distant world.

Biological solution

In a form of “huff and puff” science, the sensor-laden container would detect the presence or absence of a metabolic product – like oxygen – reporting the find back to Earth via a Mars-orbiting relay satellite.

To help sustain expeditionary crews on Mars, experiments are underway to utilize the Martian soil plus subterranean ice, as well as the planet’s atmosphere, to make breathable oxygen.

Boland adds that great care would be taken to craft the container to seal tightly, thereby preventing the Earthly organisms from being exposed to the Martian atmosphere.

The NIAC-funded work is dedicated to opening the door to a biological solution to shipping cylinders of breathable air to Mars at great expense, Boland says. It is another alternative to a known problem of oxygen consumption for the human explorers NASA plans to send to Mars, he adds.

“I’m a biologist and an engineer. So I want to put those two things together to make a useful tool,” Boland concludes.

Source and featured image credit: NASA

If you value what we do here, create your ad-free account and support our journalism.


Your support makes a difference

Dear valued reader,

We hope that our website has been a valuable resource for you.

The reality is that it takes a lot of time, effort, and resources to maintain and grow this website. We rely on the support of readers like you to keep providing high-quality content.

If you have found our website to be helpful, please consider making a contribution to help us continue to bring you the information you need. Your support means the world to us and helps us to keep doing what we love.

Support us by choosing your support level – Silver, Gold or Platinum. Other support options include Patreon pledges and sending us a one-off payment using PayPal.

Thank you for your consideration. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Teo Blašković

$5 /month

  • Ad-free account
  • Clean user interface and fast browsing
  • Direct communication with us via chat and email
  • Suggest new features, content and applications
  • Early access to new apps and features

$50 /year

$10 /month

  • Ad-free account
  • Clean user interface and fast browsing
  • Direct communication with us via chat and email
  • Suggest new features, content and applications
  • Early access to new apps and features

$100 /year

$25 /month

  • Ad-free account
  • Clean user interface and fast browsing
  • Direct communication with us via chat and email
  • Suggest new features, content and applications
  • Early access to new apps and features

$200 /year

You can also support us on Patreon

support us on patreon

or by sending us a one-off payment using PayPal:

Commenting rules and guidelines

We value the thoughts and opinions of our readers and welcome healthy discussions on our website. In order to maintain a respectful and positive community, we ask that all commenters follow these rules:

  • Treat others with kindness and respect.
  • Stay on topic and contribute to the conversation in a meaningful way.
  • Do not use abusive or hateful language.
  • Do not spam or promote unrelated products or services.
  • Do not post any personal information or content that is illegal, obscene, or otherwise inappropriate.

We reserve the right to remove any comments that violate these rules. By commenting on our website, you agree to abide by these guidelines. Thank you for helping to create a positive and welcoming environment for all.

One Comment

  1. Space exploration and colonization of Mars is inevitable. Let us be highly selective in choosing the astronauts to be compatibly suited to cohabit with harmony and a spirit of cooperation through matching personality characteristics in all important aspects to eliminate conflicting ideas and countering aspirations!

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *