NASA seeks CO2 conversion options for future Mars outpost

In house, each molecule doubtlessly performs a task in human exploration — even the carbon dioxide prevalent within the ambiance of Mars. Sooner or later, with assist from citizen scientists, these carbon dioxide molecules may assist ship a wealth of merchandise important for dwelling and dealing on Mars.

As NASA readies for Artemis missions to the Moon, the company and its companions are additionally paving the way in which for long-term exploration of the Pink Planet by in search of progressive options for changing the carbon dioxide from Mars’ ambiance to sugars utilizing non-biological applied sciences. These sugars then can be utilized to “feed” subtle microbial bioreactors to biomanufacture a wide selection of mission-essential merchandise similar to meals, vitamins, medication, polymers and fuels.

It’s a pure resolution, given the prevalence of the foremost crucial atoms — carbon, oxygen and hydrogen — within the ambiance and potential floor water of Mars.

Now, NASA’s CO2 Conversion Problem, a part of the company’s Centennial Challenges, is inviting unbiased researchers and groups from academia, trade and the general public to develop new applied sciences for quickly changing CO2 into helpful sugar molecules similar to glucose.

NASA is in search of progressive options for changing the carbon dioxide from Mars’ ambiance to sugars utilizing non-biological applied sciences.

These glucose molecules — the popular feedstock for microorganisms usually utilized in industrial biomanufacturing techniques — are generally derived from Earth-based vegetation, together with sugar cane. Such an strategy for long-term spaceflights and prolonged stays on the moon and Mars would require giant, devoted agricultural items and related processing techniques to handle the air, water and energy wanted to domesticate the vegetation and extract the feedstock.

Growing an environment friendly CO2 conversion system for implementation on Mars and different worlds quickly and cost-effectively may produce sugars for in-situ biomanufacturing —serving to people to reside, work and survive throughout the photo voltaic system, self-reliant, with out the necessity to haul heavy, pricey provides from Earth.

Such a breakthrough may even revolutionize sustainable manufacturing right here at residence, supporting the manufacturing of life-sustaining supplies and merchandise from industrial emissions and even the CO2 in Earth’s ambiance. Corporations thinking about such applied sciences are already consulting with problem contributors to be taught extra.

The competitors

Throughout Section 1 of the CO2 Conversion Problem, roughly 60 groups nationwide submitted system designs; detailed their proposed conversion course of and defined how the system could be fabricated, examined and operated in house. In Might, NASA awarded 5 groups a complete of $250,000 for his or her designs.

Now, Section 2, the demonstration section of the competitors, will award as much as three groups from a prize purse of $750,000. Participation in Section 1 is just not required for participation in Section 2.

Groups competing in Section 2 should construct a physiochemical system that makes use of carbon dioxide as the only carbon supply, and reveal non-biological manufacturing of a number of of those goal molecules: D-glucose or different 6-carbon sugars (hexoses); 5-carbon sugars (pentoses); Four-carbon sugars (tetroses); Three-carbon sugars (trioses); or glycerol.

Centennial Challenges is a component of the Prizes and Challenges program inside NASA’s Area Expertise Mission Directorate that provides incentive prizes to generate revolutionary analysis and know-how options to issues of curiosity to NASA and the nation. Centennial Challenges is managed at NASA’s Marshall Area Flight Heart in Huntsville, Alabama.

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