I am currently researching the idea of growing spirulina algae on Mars for as a renewable source of oxygen, food and material. So the question arises: How feasible would it be to grow spirulina in an artificial habitat on Mars?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'd link up your sources from your answer on uhoh's question, gives context: sanat.co.in/health-blog/123/… and scielo.br/… $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 16:05
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Growing algae on the surface of Mars and within its atmosphere, or growing them in greenhouses on Mars with a different atmosphere? $\endgroup$
    – Uwe
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 9:15
  • $\begingroup$ @Uwe Edit: Clarified question, should have done this earlier. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 28, 2018 at 0:12

2 Answers 2


There are photosynthesizing organisms capable of growing on Mars !
Some places on Mars near the equator are low enough to have liquid water on the surface for a few hours.

But as @anon stated in his answer there are other oxygen producing organisms that are better suited for use as food or the production of plastic than algae.

Could one of them be Nostoc Commune ?

enter image description here

Photo taken by YAMAMAYA

Nostoc Commune is a species of cyanobacterium, so it produces oxygen, common names include star jelly and fah-tsai. It's a colonial species, forming a gelatinous mass with other colonies growing nearby and between the ordinary cells nitrogen-fixing cells occur.
It is found in many countries around the world and is able to survive in extreme conditions in polar regions and arid areas. The cells also contain pigments that absorb ultraviolet radiation which enables it to survive in places where high levels of radiation occur !

It produces extracellular polysaccharides that can be used for plastic production.

Nostoc Commune is eaten in east Asia.

I think algae are not suitable for Mars, in particular because of the dry conditions there and the ultraviolet radiation, but it well may be that Nostoc Cummune is suitable within the lower regions near the equator !

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I like this post simply for the new microbes people bring to it. This is indeed an awesome species because it is nitrogen fixing and edible. The hardest part with plants is meeting their nutritional demands which in a world like ours is usually handled by a plethora of other microbes that compose their ecosystem. Anyways, mars's atmosphere is nitrogen starved and the equatorial nights go well below freezing, even these would not be able to survive unprotected. $\endgroup$
    – anon
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 20:58
  • $\begingroup$ @anon You could be right, i only know that it's able to survive in extreme conditions in polar regions. Regarding nitrogen, there is some in Mars's atmosphere and when not enough then we have to choose the regions where there are nitrates in the rocks or soils. $\endgroup$
    – Cornelis
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 21:53
  • $\begingroup$ to my knowledge nitrates dont occur naturally(geologically). They are created by organisms like the one above and then just recycled endlessly. A sterile world like Mars shouldnt have natural nitrates. $\endgroup$
    – anon
    Commented Aug 24, 2018 at 21:59
  • $\begingroup$ @anon Look for nitrate and Mars and you will find that Curiosity found nitrate in windblown sediments. $\endgroup$
    – Cornelis
    Commented Aug 25, 2018 at 8:03

There are a few questions like this but I cant find one that addresses all the avenues of this question.

1) No known terrestrial photosynthesizing organism is capable of growing on Mars currently. This is because of the temperature and pressure of Mars as well as the fact that it's very dry. These aspects are important because, as far we know it, all photosynthesizing life forms require liquid water which would either freeze or vaporize on Mars. Thus seeding Mars with algae would do nothing.

2) If you meant raising algae in controlled environments on Mars that's a little different. It is possible but not necessarily feasible.

  • Algae does not make for good human food.
  • Algae requires a lot more water to productively grow than other plants.
  • Algae harvesting and processing requires more equipment than other plants
  • there are methods that can produce plastics from processing any organic matter

In short, there is a long list of plants better suited for these purposes than algae.

  • $\begingroup$ "terrestrial photosynthesizing organism" - This phrase is ambiguous. It is used to refer to photosynthesizing organisms that grow on land, and it could also mean photosynthesizing organisms on Earth. I suspect you mean the latter, but you should probably clarify. $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage
    Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 19:48
  • $\begingroup$ These two points are most pertinent to the OP's question and could use some further detail and sources: "Algae requires a lot more water to productively grow than other plants." "Algae harvesting and processing requires more equipment than other plants" $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage
    Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 19:55
  • $\begingroup$ Can you give me specific list of plants? $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 20:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Awesomepotato29 lol ok, fao.org/fileadmin/templates/ess/documents/… $\endgroup$
    – anon
    Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 20:07
  • $\begingroup$ @anon actually... Algae ARE good food $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 23, 2018 at 20:13

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.