It may sound like a science fiction, but NASA is working on a plan to make oxygen on Mars to make the air of the Red Planet fit for human consumption. NASA’s next robot is due to arrive on the Red Planet in 2020, and NASA is planning to send Microbial Life, such as bacteria or algae, to Mars on this mission. Scientists believe these microbes, would be able to use Martian soil as fuel and would release oxygen as a byproduct. The released oxygen could then be used for human consumption or in rockets for return flights to Earth.

The atmosphere of Mars

Sending astronauts to Mars is the most challenging space project for the American space agency. It is not an easy task to complete and comes with its own nitty-gritty details and issues that NASA (or any other space agency) would need to sort out before proceeding with a manned mission to the Red Planet.

The atmosphere of Mars is much thinner than Earth’s atmosphere—having some 95% carbon dioxide, 2.7% nitrogen, 0.13% oxygen, 0.08% carbon monoxide and small amounts of argon and other elements. This extremely thin atmosphere means the air on this planet becomes very dusty during giant storms that are largest in our solar system and continue for several months, thus blanketing the whole planet.

Earth's atmosphere, in comparison, is rich in oxygen and nitrogen, making it more suitable for the existence of life. If NASA succeeds in its experiment and starts making oxygen on Mars, it would greatly help the agency in setting up human colonies on the Red Planet.

NASA is taking small steps in right direction

Robert Lightfoot, acting chief administrator at NASA told Futurism that reaching the Red Planet requires small, incremental steps, and NASA is taking all right steps in that direction.

Lightfoot revealed that the space agency is also working on a plan to install a nuclear reactor on Mars as well as creating a magnetic shield around the planet. NASA also wants to build a space station near the Moon to serve as a base for missions to Mars or other planets in our solar system. SpaceX’s founder Elon Musk has also revealed his plans to establish human colonies on the Red Planet.

Musk believes it would cost around $10billion for one individual to live on Mars. He also envisions thousands of Interplanetary Transport System (ITS) spaceships being produced in next 50 to 100 years, with each carrying a minimum of 100 individuals to Mars. This architecture, Musk thinks, could conceivably send about 1 million people to the Red Planet within the next 100 years.