Can Kombucha Help Us Survive on Mars? Study Says So


| LAST UPDATE 06/12/2022

By Stanley Wickens
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It's no secret that humans may inhabit Mars in the future. After decades of research, we're optimistic about the possibility of life on the red planet. But how exactly will people on Mars stay alive? Well, it turns out scientists are looking into that as well - but their latest findings are rather peculiar...

According to two recent research papers, the two secret ingredients to successfully build and sustain life on Mars are human waste and kombucha. One study that was published in the journal PLOS One shows that bacteria and urea from the urine of astronauts could be used together to make "space bricks." Researchers from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) collaborated with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to study and discover the exact recipe needed for these building units. A mixture of Martian soil, guar gum, a bacterium called Sporosarcina pasteurii, urea, and nickel chloride (NiCl2) could then be molded into the shape of a brick. The bacteria would then convert the urea into crystals of calcium carbonate, turning the mixture into a kind of cement that would hold the soil particles together.

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A second study revealed another type of product that may become widely used by people on Mars in the future. A substance called kombucha - sometimes also called tea fungus or mushroom tea - is the result of the fermentation of sugared tea using kombucha cultures, a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast. This fermented tea promotes the survival of a type of bacteria that can produce cellulose, which Martians may find quite valuable. Why's that? Cellulose - which likely contributes to the survival of bacteria in extraterrestrial environments - can be used on Mars as a preservative, a food additive, and a fiber supplement.

One thing that can be said for sure is that scientists are working hard to figure out how we can make life on the red planet possible. "I'm so excited that many researchers across the world are thinking about colonising other planets," said Aloke Kumar, Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at IISc, and one of the lead authors of the study. "It may not happen quickly, but people are actively working on it," he added. And although we still have tons of research to do, we're definitely getting somewhere...