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A key aspect of the venture in Mars is to create an environment in which human beings can survive and flourish and for this it requires a ready supply of oxygen. NASA is working along with an Indiana-based company Techshot Inc. to develop a solution to produce an abundant source of oxygen with minimal assistance from Earth.

“This is a possible way to support a human mission to Mars, producing oxygen without having to send heavy gas canisters,” stated Chief Scientist Eugene Boland. “Lets send microbes and let them do the heavy-lifting for us, he added.

If the human presence in Mars is to be challenged by the explorers from the Mars room, a test chamber capable of emulating the inhospitable conditions located there, organisms would remain alive enough.

For their first test, Boland and his team expect to see their research touch down on the Red Planet in a rover carrying an experimental test bed housing extremophile organisms such as cyanobacteria. The container would be drilled into the Martian surface, capturing a sample of alien soil in the process. As the specimens proceed to interact with the soil, the capsule will analyse the sealed environment for signs of oxygen or other metabolic products, transmitting its findings back to Earth via a Mars-orbiting satellite.