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NASA Launches Competition to Develop Sugar-Based Energy Sources for Mars Missions

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NASA has launched a new competition that aims to identify ways to convert carbon dioxide into energy-rich sugars that may be used by astronauts to meet various needs during Mars missions.

Administered under the Centennial Challenges program, the CO2 Conversion Challenge tasks participants to introduce space-usable methods for producing CO2-based glucose, an ideal feedstock alternative to power systems, the space agency said Thursday.

Carbon dioxide is an abundant compound on the red planet, while carbon and oxygen serve as foundations for glucose that may fuel machines that would be used in Mars missions.

“If we can transform an existing and plentiful resource like carbon dioxide into a variety of useful products, the space and terrestrial applications are endless,” said Monsi Roman, program manager of the Centennial Challenges program.

NASA, in April 2019, will award up to $50K each to five teams whose proposals qualify under the challenge’s first phase.

The agency will additionally grant up to $750K to support phase two, which would cover construction and demonstration activities.

Marshall Space Flight Center manages the Centennial Challenges program.