Why lichen may be the perfect factories for making rocket fuel on Mars

When the first humans go to Mars, they may want to bring lichens with them.

Because lichens are mini-ecosystems made of both fungi and algae or bacteria, they are particularly good at surviving the extreme conditions on Mars, and could even be used to produce rocket fuel in space.

Kiriakos Kotzabasis at the University of Crete in Greece and his colleagues subjected lichen to brutal conditions similar to those seen on Mars – with no water, temperatures as low as -196°C, and low oxygen levels – to see how they would survive.

They …

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