Today’s Solutions: March 01, 2024

As space exploration develops further, scientists and engineers are innovating more outlandish ways for humans to survive beyond our planet. What was once magic becomes science as experts think outside the box and brilliantly repurpose resources in closed environments, such as growing lettuce in space shuttles to produce necessary drugs. 

Indeed, it seems that solutions are often found in unexpected places, even coming from a totally different field of research. Observing yellow-bellied marmots, for example, gave researchers insight into how humans might hibernate for long space journeys. Now, different scientific fields have once again shown the mutual benefit they can share from each other’s research. 

A toilet reactor on Mars

A team from the Spanish tech center, Tekniker is developing a system that produces fuel using sunlight and astronaut wastewater, as reported by the European Space Agency.

“We aim to make the first reactor to produce space propellant on Mars using the planet’s air, which is 95% carbon dioxide. The reactor will be powered by sunlight, and astronauts’ greywater will be used to help in the production of the propellant,” said Borja Pozo of Tekniker. 

The photoelectric reactor would use high-efficiency catalytic materials to produce hydrocarbons like methane, alcohols, and carbon monoxide, which can be used as fuel. That’s not all. The process will also decontaminate the wastewater and recycle it back as usable water. 

Different scientific fields and different planets benefiting each other

While there is still much research and work to be done, this could add viability to future Earth-Mars travel, creating a method for space shuttles to refuel on the Red Planet. Research like this could also provide further insight into how to decarbonize our own atmosphere, as every possible approach to carbon sequestration could help our efforts in adapting to a changing climate and even stop it from getting worse.

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