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Astronauts’ survival on Mars not a problem anymore! Scientists find a solution in human waste

New Delhi: Space agencies around the world have their keen sights set on infiltrating the surface of Mars with manned probes in the near future. Preparations for the same have been lined up with challenges, but scientists know that giving up is not an option and numerous studies and experiments are under way to bring the Martian dream to fruit. One of the the world’s front-runners in the space race – American space agency NASA – has been planning its 2020 Mars mission for ages and from landing sites to human housing on Mars, everything has been taken into account.  However, one of the main concerns of the mission is human survival in the Martian atmosphere and in every aspect, experimentation is key.  In order to understand this, we should be aware that there will be limited cargo on the Martian spacecraft, which could amount to inconvenience during exploration on the planet. Therefore, NASA researchers may have found a potential solution to the problem – human urine. To refresh your memory, let us take you back in time to the conversation between the then newly-elected President of the US Donald Trump and astronauts Peggy Whitson and Jack Fischer from the International Space Station (ISS), wherein Whitson told the POTUS that they had found a way to convert urine into clean, drinkable water. Well, Trump didn’t really take a liking to the idea, but scientists have been seeking solutions for many problems in human excreta. Similarly, NASA’s research team led by Mark Blenner has developed a kind of yeast that will utilise valuable biological components present in human urine — Nitrogen, along with Carbon from an astronaut’s breathing process to create plastic, which can be used to create valuable tools using 3D printing process, the Deccan Chronicle reported. As per the report, the yeast, known as Yarrowia lipolytica, feeds on Nitrogen and Carbon and can be engineered to either create polyester polymers for printing plastic parts or omega-3 fatty acids, which can be utilised for nutritional purposes. “If astronauts are going to make journeys that span several years, we’ll need to find a way to reuse and recycle everything they bring with them,” says Mark Blenner, lead researcher on the new project. “Atom economy will become really important. Having a biological system that astronauts can awaken from a dormant state to start producing what they need, when they need it, is the motivation for our project,” he added.

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