NASA, the United States space agency and private space companies like SpaceX are now busy formulating plans to colonize Mars in the near future. Experts at NASA and SpaceX founder Elon Musk strongly believe that colonizing Mars is pretty much necessary to protect humanity, as earth will become an unsuitable place to live in the near or distant future due to various reasons. However, a section of space scientists argues that Mars mission will not be an easy task, as the atmosphere in the Red Planet is harsh, and moreover, this cosmic neighbor is now nothing but barren land.

Mars colony
Representative image of a future Mars colony Team SEArch /Apis Cor’s 3D modeled design

Should humans send bacteria to Mars?

Benjamin Lehner, a doctoral candidate at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands strongly believes that it is a good idea to send bacteria to the Red Planet before human colonization. Lehner specifically named the bacterial species 'Shewanella oneidensis', and he suggested that sending these microbes to Mars could help to mine usable iron out of the Martian soil.

"In its natural form, we can't use much of the iron in the Martian soil. But S. oneidensis has the ability to turn part of the soil into magnetite, a magnetic oxide of iron," said Lehner in a recent statement.

In his dissertation, Lehner suggested that humans should consider sending a crewless capsule containing a rover, a bioreactor and a 3D printer before colonization. The rover deployed will roll around the surface of Mars, and will scoop Martian soil which is iron-rich. The robot will later bring back the soil to the bioreactor which will be loaded with this bacteria.

"After 3.3 years, it would produce more iron than can fit inside the capsule. By sending several of these unmanned modules to Mars, we can produce a good amount of iron in a few years' time," added Lehner.

Aliens living on Mars?

In the meantime, Dr Jim Green, a NASA chief scientist had recently claimed that alien life will be discovered on Mars by 2021. As per Jim Green, alien discovery could be made by upcoming Mars missions that will be executed by NASA and ESA. The scientist also added that humans are not ready to accept the realities surrounding extraterrestrial existence.