Control of lunar and Martian dust - experimental insights from artificial and natural cyanobacterial and algal crusts in the Desert of Inner Mongolia, China

Liu, Yonding; Cockell, Charles S.; Wang, Gaohong; Hu, Chunxiang; Chen, Lanzhou and De Philippis, Roberto (2008). Control of lunar and Martian dust - experimental insights from artificial and natural cyanobacterial and algal crusts in the Desert of Inner Mongolia, China. Astrobiology, 8(1) pp. 75–86.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1089/ast.2007.0122

Abstract

Studies on the colonization of environmentally extreme ground surfaces were conducted in a Mars-like desert area of Inner Mongolia, People's Republic of China, with microalgae and cyanobacteria. We collected and mass-cultured cyanobacterial strains from these regions and investigated their ability to form desert crusts artificially. These crusts had the capacity to resist sand wind erosion after just 15 days of growth. Similar to the surface of some Chinese deserts, the surface of Mars is characterized by a layer of fine dust, which will challenge future human exploration activities, particularly in confined spaces that will include greenhouses and habitats. We discuss the use of such crusts for the local control of desert sands in enclosed spaces on Mars. These experiments suggest innovative new directions in the applied use of microbe-mineral interactions to advance the human exploration and settlement of space.

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