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A large part of sustaining life on Mars is finding a way to give humans the life-sustaining nutrients they receive on Earth. NASA researchers are hard at work doing just that, in the form of a greenhouse system that will allow Mars dwellers to grow plants.

The space agency has already had success in growing plants on the International Space Station, but the same structure faces more challenges on the Red Planet. A team of scientists and engineers have created a prototype at the Kennedy Space Center which uses a closed-loop system to recycle nutrients in a way that imitates the lifecycle on Earth. Astronauts would set up the inflatable greenhouse on the planet, at which point they would be able to produce the plants and crops that are essential to breathing, drinking, and eating.

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The buzz surrounding the race to Mars has mostly focused on what explorers will do once they get there. But astronauts will spend significant time aboard the spacecraft transporting them there, leading to long-overdue speculation about plans for a shuttle.

Boeing recently unveiled its own plans for both a shuttle and a lunar outpost. The outpost has a dual purpose. First, it will reside in the Moon’s orbit, serving in a capacity similar to NASA’s Space Station. Secondly, the outpost will serve as a resting place for vehicles on their way to Mars when those missions finally begin. Not only are Boeing’s concepts visually appealing, but they use solar electric propulsion technology, making them a winner with environmentalists.

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The quest to make Mars habitable is ongoing, with scientists trying various approaches to setting up communities on the Red Planet. The latest of these ideas comes from NASA, where scientists have proposed a magnetic field to overcome the planet’s environmental challenges.

Using an artificial magnetic field, NASA believes the planet could shield itself against the sun’s rays. Crafting this artificial field would be quite a project, though. NASA has named the project Mars L1, proposing two large magnets that would hold inflatable structures in place to serve as shields.

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