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Nitrogen (N) forms a crucial part of DNA, proteins, and other biomolecules and is an essential element to life. Luckily, N is abundant in Earth’s and Mars’ atmospheres in its atmospheric form (N2); however, plants and humans are unable to metabolize it in this state. N2 gas is only able to be consumed by undergoing nitrogen fixation, an intensive process that breaks the extremely-stable N ≡ N bond in order to form bioavailable ammonia (NH3). Many prokaryotes are capable of nitrogen fixation. Plants may uptake fixed N from these, which are then consumed by other lifeforms including humans as a source of nitrogen. Due to an apparent lack of biological activity on Mars, it is estimated that N will be overwhelmingly present as N2. If humans want to permanently settle Mars, which demands in situ food production, they must devise a means to efficiently fix nitrogen to enable agrarian success. Industrial nitrogen fixation is infrastructurally intensive, and this work therefore elects to evaluate biological nitrogen fixation as an avenue to Martian cultivation. Three different microorganisms are evaluated for their capacity to fix nitrogen: Rhodopseudomonas palustris (R. palustris), Azotobacter vinelandii (A. vinelandii), and Azospira suillum (A. suillum). Initial efforts to culture these in-lab are detailed. An outline for a modular system in which these organisms may be advantageously used is proposed to be evaluated with further research and studies.

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Logan, UT


fertilizer, Mars, nitrogen acquisition, biological activity



Establishing a Framework of Nitrogen Acquisition for Martian Agriculture

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