MAPEX Research Highlights

On the growth dynamics of the cyanobacterium Anabaena sp. PCC 7938 in Martian regolith

Tiago P. Ramalho, Guillaume Chopin, Lina Salman, Vincent Baumgartner, Christiane Heinicke, and Cyprien Verseux

npj Microgravity 8 (2022), 43

The sustainability of crewed infrastructures on Mars will depend on their abilities to produce consumables on site. These abilities may be supported by diazotrophic, rock-leaching cyanobacteria: from resources naturally available on Mars, they could feed downstream biological processes and lead to the production of oxygen, food, fuels, structural materials, pharmaceuticals and more. The relevance of such a system will be dictated largely by the efficiency of regolith utilization by cyanobacteria. We therefore describe the growth dynamics of Anabaena sp. PCC 7938 as a function of MGS-1 concentration (a simulant of a widespread type of Martian regolith), of perchlorate concentration, and of their combination. To help devise improvement strategies and predict dynamics in regolith of differing composition, we identify the limiting element in MGS-1 – phosphorus – and its concentration-dependent effect on growth. Finally, we show that, while maintaining cyanobacteria and regolith in a single compartment can make the design of cultivation processes challenging, preventing direct physical contact between cells and grains may reduce growth. Overall, we hope for the knowledge gained here to support both the design of cultivation hardware and the modeling of cyanobacterium growth within.

© The Authors,  licensed under CC BY 4.0

This publication is a result of the Humans on Mars Initiative.

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