Bacteria that can grow in space could help humans breathe on Mars

Updated June 15, 2018 08:29:57

Photo: Plant life grew in a Mars simulator in Peru last year. (AP: Martin Mejia)

Particularly tough bacteria that have been on Earth for more than 2.5 billion years could help humans colonise Mars and identify life on other planets.

A study involving the Australian National University (ANU) and published today in Science explored what allows cyanobacteria called Chroococcidiopsis to survive in extreme conditions.

One key to the bug’s success is its photosynthesis process — storing energy from light and creating oxygen — which can operate under low light and red light.

Certain types of cyanobacteria found in harsh environments, like Antarctica and the Mojave Desert, have even survived when tested in outer space, outside the International Space Station.

One of the researchers on the project said, while it “might sound like science fiction”, the properties of these bacteria could be harnessed to create breathable air for humans on Mars.