Back a little over 2 billion years ago there was an event; an event that without, you and I would not be here or without the subsequent events. There is evidence that oxygen levels continued to rise 1.3 billion years ago and even more so before the Cambrian Explosion, a rapid proliferation of animal life that began 540 million years ago. So basically it is important to embrace this history and understand what the major cause was. Cyanobacteria.
Cyanobacteria are microbes that live primarily in seawater. They are believed to have been the first organisms on Earth to perform oxygenic photosynthesis. In this process, they produce organic carbon, the building blocks of life’s molecules, and release oxygen gas (O2). The O2 enters into the seawater, and from there some of it escapes into the atmosphere. Seems simple, right? Well there is a tad more to it.
In order for the oxygen to build up in the upper atmosphere a couple other things have to go on. A reduction of gases may have been the ticket. Hydrogen, just by its existence, tends to eat up the oxygen that is to react with it to make various hydroxides. One theory proposes earth gained an oxygen-rich atmosphere because molecular hydrogen was belched out of volcanoes and diffused into space. But the main thing is later the Earth was oxygenated from events originating with the Cyanobacteria.
But that happened eons ago, that is useless knowledge, no? No. Suppose we harnessed that natural technology to provide oxygen where there really isn’t any? And suppose we expanded that to not just include cyanobacteria but algae as well. We could likely have oxygen on Mars! Instead of carrying canisters of O2 we could bring some, but “grow” the rest.
Suppose NASA were to through the use of bio-domes on the Martian surface, utilize that which the microbes do naturally. All they need is access to the nitrogen-rich Martian soil.
And while that is most interesting, what about the long trip out to Mars – they need oxygen as well. Remember the water that at one point was discussed to use as a shield against radiation? How about having that water and perhaps algae and cyanobacteria as well?
Well, a private company has been tasked by NASA to design and build an oxygen production facility for a Martian outpost or colony. In order to make the needed oxygen, the cyanobacteria and the algae would use the nitrogen-rich Martian soil. *NOTE: It can also be used to make water and fuel.*