Martian Settlers May Need Chickens To Conquer The Red Planet

If humanity ever intends upon on settling Mars (by settling I mean a one way trip with no plans on returning back to Earth), they are going to need a whole lot of chickens if they want to survive–let alone thrive–upon the red planet.

Aside from providing an excellent source of protein, chickens could help future settlers raise not only crops (such as wheat, barely, etc.) upon the barren Martian soil, but also help colonists keep the lights on through a very useful by-product (aka chicken dung).

Unlike Earth, Martian dirt is very hostile towards plant life. Unless we can genetically alter plants to grow upon the red planets soil, future settlers will have to heavily rely upon the home world for their daily bread.

Future scientists could help reduce or (even better) eliminate that need by using chicken manure, which (as far as animal dung goes) has one of the highest concentration of nutrients available, making it a perfect choice for raising plants on Mars.

But providing food for plants isn’t the only reason why future Martian colonists will probably choose these ugly (yet useful) creatures, as chicken dung can also be used for energy as well.

Using an old scientific process called pyrolysis (which is cooking biomass like manure without the presence of oxygen), future settlers could turn this smelly chicken manure into biochar (which is a charcoal like product).

Just like many farmers on Earth, future colonists could turn biochar into bio-fuel, helping to power their future  space settlements along with Martian solar panels (or an underground nuclear reactor).

While other types of animals manure could also be used for raising crop or keeping the lights on, it would be much easier (not to mention cheaper) transporting chickens en mass than larger animals.

This is mainly due to the fact than an egg (averaging about 57 grams), weigh much less than say, a baby calf (which would weigh 32 kilograms at birth), making chickens the logical choice as far as future space animals go.

Although humans may eventually import other animals to Mars (whether for food or as pets), it may not be surprising to see chickens accompany future explorers in their quest to conquer the red planet.

Image Credit: Andrei Niemimäki via Flickr

Sources: New York Times, Ezine Articles, Wise Geek

Will Bio Fuels Power Martian Colonies Instead Of Solar?

If I told you that your great, great, great grandkids would be building houses on that crimson world known as Mars, what would be the first thought to enter your head?

Rovers? Check! A comfy Martian house? Check! Power cutting rock tools? (for us guys) Double check! A bio fuel gas tank? Che–huh?!

You’re probably wondering “what power on Earth would motivate you to bring bio fuels to Mars?” The answer: a slightly altered cyanobacterium that may help us power future Martian rovers, homes–and yes–power tools with good ol’ biofuel.

The problem with settling Mars is this: despite its dazzling desert environment (if you consider frozen dry tundra’s dazzling), Mars is not the most ideal location when it comes to the energy department.

The red planet receives approximately half of the sunlight Earth does, which may dim a green geeks hope of a solar powered outpost offworld.

Worse, even if solar panels received 100% of the energy from the Sun, those big, bad global dust storms could make solar panels useless for weeks or months at a time.

The only thing “big red” has to offer future settlers is rust, dust and lots of CO2–the latter which can be converted into fuel thanks to our new best (microscopic) friend cyanobacterium.

Scientists have been studying this little creature and have found that with a “few” alterations, cyanobacterium can take CO2 (the gas that can easily kill you) and turn it into a biofuel called isobutanol.

Converted, isobutanol could help colonists power rovers, Martian settlements–and yes, even power tools (as cutting rocks with lasers is going to require lots of energy folks!) without the need to depend upon the Sun or an underground miniature nuke (which might be too expensive for small outposts).

Since bio fuels can’t openly burn in the carbon atmosphere, future rovers, houses and power tools will need to be altered to also carry oxygen as well (which we could extract from the ever abundant Martian ice).

By having an inexpensive and (hopefully) cheap fuel, establishing homes and traveling the Martian globe could become a reality without the heavy (and sometimes “helpful”) hand from governments and mega-corporations.

Image Credit: Paul Hudson via NASA

Sources: Alternative Energy News,

Mini Nuclear Reactors Could Power Space Colonies

Growing up on Star Trek, I was always told that space was the final frontier. What they never told me was that space is about as friendly to the human body as being microwaved alive in a frozen tundra–in essence, shelter is a necessity.

Like any Earthen home or building, an off world shelter on the Moon or Mars will need energy to keep its residents comfortable (not to mention alive), and power outages of any sort will not be tolerated–unless a person desires to be radiated and frozen (which is probably not a great way to “kick the bucket”).

While some may look towards solar power to help keep the lights on and the heat flowing, it may be wiser instead to look at an upcoming “fission battery” from Hyperion Power Generation to power future colonies on the Moon, Mars, and perhaps an plasma rocket powered starship as well.

Originally created by Dr. Otis Peterson while on staff at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, Hyperion Power Generation (which I’ll call HPG for short) has licensed Dr. Peterson’s miniature nuclear reactor which are actually small enough to fit inside a decent sized hot tub.

Despite their small stature (being 1.5 meters by 2.5 meters), one of these mini-reactors could provide enough energy to power 20,000 average sized American homes (or 70 MW’s of thermal energy in geek speak) and can last up to ten years.

Since HPG is designing these mini-nuclear reactors to require little human assistance (the “little” having to do with burying the reactors underground), these “nuclear batteries” would enable NASA (or a wealthy space company) to power an outpost on the Moon or Mars without having to rely upon the Sun’s rays–at least as a primary source for power.

HPG’s mini-reactors could also help power future star ships heading towards Jupiter or Saturn (or even beyond), providing enough energy to not only keep the humans on board alive and comfortable, but provide enough thrust via plasma rockets as well.

Scheduled to be released in 2013, these mini-reactors are priced at around $50 million each, which probably puts it outside the price range of the average private space corporation.

Despite the cost, it may be wise for NASA, the European Space Agency, Japan, India and (if the US is in a really good trusting mood) China to consider installing one (or several) of these mini-reactors for their respective bases, as it could enable humanity to actually do what has been depicted in scifi films and television shows–seek out new homes on new worlds and spread ourselves throughout the universe.

Source: Hyperion Power Generation, Inc., Image Credit: NASA