The U.S. space agency NASA is offering a public challenge, with a lofty $750,000 reward, to anyone who can find ways to turn carbon dioxide into compounds that would be useful on Mars.
Calling it the “CO2 Conversion Challenge,” NASA scientists say they need help finding a way to turn a plentiful resource like carbon dioxide into a variety of useful products in order to make trips to Mars possible.
Carbon dioxide is one resource that is readily abundant within the Martian atmosphere.
Scientists say astronauts attempting space travel to Mars will not be able to bring everything they need to the red planet, so will have to figure out ways to use local resources once they get there to create what they need.
“Enabling sustained human life on another planet will require a great deal of resources and we cannot possibly bring everything we will need. We have to get creative,” said Monsi Roman, program manager of NASA’s Centennial Challenges program.
She said if scientists could learn to transform “resource like carbon dioxide into a variety of useful products, the space — and terrestrial — applications are endless.”
Carbon and oxygen are the molecular building blocks of sugars.
On Earth, plants can easily and inexpensively turn carbon dioxide and water into sugar. However, scientists say this approach would be difficult to replicate in space because of limited resources, such as energy and water.
NASA says the competition is divided into two phases. During the first phase, individuals or teams would submit a design and description of their proposal, with up to five teams winning $50,000 each. In the second phase, the finalists would build and present a demonstration of their proposals, with the winning individual or team earning $750,000.
Those who are up for the challenge need to register by Jan. 24, 2019, and then officially apply by Feb. 28, 2019.