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."

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BSD
Dec 15, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
antialias_physorg
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.
hemipwr54
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.
baudrunner
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.
execspec1
3 / 5 (2) Dec 15, 2014
Science , is where America needs to spend it's time and money.
baudrunner
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.
bulletprasath
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...

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