Engineering students aim to generate first breathable air on Mars

December 15, 2014 by David Stacey, University of Western Australia
Engineering students aim to generate first breathable air on Mars

A project by students from The University of Western Australia and Mars One astronaut candidate Josh Richards has reached the finals of an international competition to land vital experiments on the Red Planet.

The Helena Payload project, which aims to generate the first breathable air on Mars, is one of 10 finalists in the Mars One University Competition and is the only successful entry from the southern hemisphere.

Mars One is a not-for-profit foundation that aims to establish permanent human life on Mars.

The winning payload will fly on Mars One's first unmanned lander mission and arrive on the surface of Mars in 2018, along with other experiments and a communication satellite.

Helena aims to demonstrate key-life support technology, using electrolysis to produce oxygen from water extracted from Martian soil. Its primary science payload is an electrolysis module housed in a custom-made chassis unit.

However, in a move inspired by the 'Golden Record' mounted on each of the Voyager 1 and 2 interstellar probes, Helena will also carry a 'time capsule' in the form of a radiation-hardened DVD filled with content submitted by the public via social media during National Science Week 2015.

UWA engineering student and Helena co-lead, Andre Van Vulpen, said the project, developed in conjunction with Perth physicist and Mars One astronaut candidate Josh Richards and named after the Shakespearean heroine who 'breathed life into stone', would be the first example of life-support technology on the surface of Mars and a precursor to the arrival of the Mars One colonists in 2025.

"Our experiment will hopefully pave the way to ensure the survival of the elected astronauts on the Red Planet, as we attempt to produce oxygen from Martian resources," Andre said.

"In addition to the scientific contribution, we are hoping to put together the largest crowd-sourced art collection ever sent to another planet, allowing any Earth citizen the opportunity to join us on our trip to Mars, and leave their legacy in truly 'out of this world' tyle."

Explore further: Students aiming to put the first life on Mars

Related Stories

Students aiming to put the first life on Mars

December 10, 2014

#LettuceOnMars, a student project from the University of Southampton Spaceflight Society, has reached the finals of an international competition, run by Mars One, to land experiments on Mars. It is now one of the ten short-listed ...

The technological path to Mars

December 11, 2014

Can the just-flown Orion spacecraft truly get us to Mars? NASA has been portraying the mission as part of the roadmap to the Red Planet, but there are observers who say a human landing mission is an unrealistic goal given ...

Image: Kaleidoscopic view of Mars

July 22, 2014

Astrophotographer Leo Aerts from Belgium took advantage of the recent opposition of Mars and captured the Red Planet both "coming and going" in this montage of images taken from October 2013 to June of 2014. Mars reached ...

China researchers plan Mars mission 'around 2020'

November 18, 2014

Chinese scientists are planning to launch a Mars rover "around 2020", state media reported on Tuesday, as the country pours billions into its space programme and works to catch up with the US and Europe.

Recommended for you

The powerful meteor that no one saw (except satellites)

March 19, 2019

At precisely 11:48 am on December 18, 2018, a large space rock heading straight for Earth at a speed of 19 miles per second exploded into a vast ball of fire as it entered the atmosphere, 15.9 miles above the Bering Sea.

Revealing the rules behind virus scaffold construction

March 19, 2019

A team of researchers including Northwestern Engineering faculty has expanded the understanding of how virus shells self-assemble, an important step toward developing techniques that use viruses as vehicles to deliver targeted ...

OSIRIS-REx reveals asteroid Bennu has big surprises

March 19, 2019

A NASA spacecraft that will return a sample of a near-Earth asteroid named Bennu to Earth in 2023 made the first-ever close-up observations of particle plumes erupting from an asteroid's surface. Bennu also revealed itself ...

Nanoscale Lamb wave-driven motors in nonliquid environments

March 19, 2019

Light driven movement is challenging in nonliquid environments as micro-sized objects can experience strong dry adhesion to contact surfaces and resist movement. In a recent study, Jinsheng Lu and co-workers at the College ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Dec 15, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
4.3 / 5 (6) Dec 15, 2014
Helena aims to demonstrate key-life support technology, using electrolysis to produce oxygen from water extracted from Martian soil.

Oxygen production may not be the problem. Getting the 80% nitrogen might be.
1 / 5 (2) Dec 15, 2014
Mars is big business right now. Money flowing to Mars will be wasted when they find out man can't make it there alive.
5 / 5 (1) Dec 15, 2014
Efforts to colonize the red planet will require industrial scale applications. For example, subsurface radar mapping to discover large underground caverns, then massive electrodes inserted into the walls of those caverns to extract ozone, and subsequent reactions to yield Oxygen. We will need to live underground, well shielded from cosmic radiation. Surface habitations will be only temporary. You really don't want to live on Mars, rather in it.
3 / 5 (2) Dec 15, 2014
Science , is where America needs to spend it's time and money.
not rated yet Dec 16, 2014
Yes, let's just keep sending up billion dollar rovers to scratch the surface and blast lasers into rocks. Really great science. I thought we were in it for the thrill of exploration, but I guess I was wrong.
not rated yet Dec 24, 2014
Considering that fact India sent a mars Orbiter for $74m and also 10 satellites into earth orbit (PSLV -C9), in one launch. May be India can send all the creative research rovers in one shot for less than Billion $. We should ask them...

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.