Chlorella: NASA Mars Challenge competition

Pierre Blosse, a plant biology expert,  29-year-old, was intrigued by NASAs recent Mars challenge, which called on the public to submit their ideas on how to establish continuous human life on the red planet. For a while, he was thinking about the usage of micro-algae Chlorella as a food source, but NASA’s competition prompted him to get to work and make something happen.

On Oct. 5, NASA publicly announced that out of 771 submissions, Blosse’s was picked along with two other entries. Blosse said. “I think right now we’re putting all our eggs into one basket with having all humans live on Earth. We know from Earth’s history that there’s been a lot of big catastrophic events that wiped out life from the planet.”

For the challenge, Blosse spent three weeks researching and writing about how starch from micro-algae Chlorella could be used as the main food source for astronauts on Mars. By growing micro-algae Chlorella in a photobioreactor with sulfur-limited conditions, the Chlorella could grow quickly and accumulate starch in itself. Purifying the starch helps it become like flour, allowing astronauts to make things like bread and cake.

Blosse said growing the micro-algae Chlorella would take less than a meter cube of space, while having the ability to feed six astronauts. He submitted a 21-page technical paper to NASA for the challenge. “They’re always talking about building big greenhouses. It would take a lot of space for astronauts,” Blosse said. “I always thought algae would be a great solution.” As part of his $5,000 award, he gave NASA the licensing rights to his submitted research and he hopes to see them expand on it as they prepare for their Mars mission in 2030.

Read more here.

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