Synthetic Biology

Role of Synthetic Biology in Mars colonization

Our grandchildren will live on Mars! You might have heard that in news. Is that possible? If yes, then how? Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors, will take us to the Mars – Will it be our new home? Though there are several questions but probably yes, we will be living in Mars!
As synthetic biology is going to help us in making this dream true in very  near future. To live on Mars will not be a fiction any more one day.
Colonization Specifically on Mars, Why? The point arises, why researchers are struggling to have life specifically on Mars, why not on any other planet in the whole universe! Researchers are working on space exploration to
discover the signs of life in the universe other than the planet Earth. Astrobiology is the discipline that is involved in search of extra-terrestrial life. Eventually, they have found a hope of life on Mars. The Mars gives certain signs that favors life while others don’t. The Mars and the Earth
It won’t be wrong if we say Mars as the Earth’s fraternal twin. Earth is white and bluish because of the existence of water in its various states. However Mars, also named as the Red planet as it shows various shades of orange and red. This is because of the presence of lots of rocks on the surface with iron oxide. On exploration, it was found that there is a white pole too that essentially denotes dry ice in Mars. Several studies made this thing cleared that there is water on Mars. It’s a fact that water supports life. Like Earth, Mars has a thin layer of atmosphere consisting of carbon dioxide (95.32%), nitrogen (2.7%), argon (14%) and traces of oxygen as well.
The average temperatures vary greatly from -55 degrees Celsius, with lows of around -133oC and highs of some +27oC. This suggests that martial conditions are much colder than the Earth. Challenges and emergence of Synthetic Biology Mars One, a Dutch organization, is identifying various challenges, which will come in the way of achieving the goals of Mars colonization. To pull it off, there is a need to solve a lot of problems. Issues like how to get in to Mars, then making a management plan for utilization and conservation of water and food resources, treatment if someone gets sick, figuring out a plan if there is a sudden need of any tool, and so on.
Researchers are striving to find ways to resolve all these anticipating issues. At the same incident, synthetic biologists are devising different biological solutions. They are applying different engineering principles at different levels to solve problems. Synbio is playing a critical role in the
generation of oxygen, fixing carbon, recycling waste and water, production of food, chemicals, and medicines.
Getting into the Mars Ferrying humans to Mars would be a much bigger challenge than getting them to the moon.
The first challenge to colonize Mars is, how we will get there!
Donald J. Trump, in December 2017, gave directions to NASA to move beyond the moon and leave their footprints and plant their flag over Mars too. NASA is now working to enable human expansion across the solar system. Their exploration campaign has settled certain objectives to
enable human exploration of the Moon. This will be the preparation for human missions to Mars and then deeper in the solar system. NASA is making scientific discoveries and advancement to mankind, capable of doing. However they don’t know the final destination of creating a colony but rather they are involved in sending people to polar areas. Allowing them to apply science and collect data and then bring them back.
SpaceX is expecting to reach Mars by 2022, as said by Elon Musk. The organization like SpaceX and Mars One, both of them claim that they will send people to Mars. Leave people there and let them begin a colony or civilization. A super heavy launch vehicle will be used for this
purpose. It would carry 50,000 kilograms or even more to the lower orbit, which is sufficient mass to take to space.
NASA is developing Space Launch System SLS. New Glenn that has been developed by Blue Origin. And the big Falcon Rocket by SpaceX are the launching vehicles which will be used.
Life on Mars as Martian! After a safe launch let’s assume that humans are permanently living there then certain things will be taken in accountability. For survival three basics things are required i.e. water, food,
and oxygen. Mars lacks nutrients, microorganisms and atmospheric conditions that support plant
growth.
M.F.K Fisher says,

“First we eat, then we do anything else”

For a stable supply of food, it would be quiet impractical and expensive to bring food items from Earth on regular basis. In order to have a self-sustained and independent lifestyle, there is a need for growing food on the Red Planet. Presence of water on Mars supports this idea. Certain
other factors must also be considered. Like, the texture of soil will be needed to test is one of them.
It has been found that the surface of Mars is heavily equipped with regolith, heavy metals and high levels of perchlorate. This leads to an increase in toxicity level. Synthetic biologists are making crops by manipulation of biological systems and testing their performance under controlled and optimized conditions. This engineering will help to improve photosynthetic
activities, photo-protective (UV protection) properties, and drought and cold tolerance capabilities. Cyanobacteria and algae have marked their values because of having astonishing features. Like, there need of requirement of very little resource input makes them available for serving food supply. Not only this, but they also serve to replenish oxygen in the Mars atmosphere.
Synthetic biologists are playing with genes of cyanobacteria to not only enhance its nutritive values but also to produce medicines.
3D printing of food is not as much mature as 3D printing of things like tools.
Microbes involved in terraforming Mars Professor Ferl states, “When we will live on Mars, we have to take our ecosystem and agriculture with us”.
As up mass and up volume is a big problem, as well as it is quite costly. Establishment of hydroponic greenhouses was initially thought as the only way to produce food resources. Playing with microbes has brought a new idea. Terraforming Mars could be possible by just taking a small
number of cells with us that has the ability to get synthetically altered. Synbio is designing and constructing new biological functions and systems that could not be naturally found. This will prove beneficial for desired material production that may include habitat construction, food, fuel, clothes or embedding biosensors.
Dechloromonas aromatica is that harmless bacteria that is capable of degradation of toxic compounds like that of perchlorate, but its growth rate is too slow. Synbio is working on microbes to detoxify and improve Martian soil quality. They are doing so by isolating such perchlorate
degradation genes and introducing them to those microbes that grow rapidly.

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