Boeing, SpaceX race to be decided by microbial engineering: report

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The race between Boeing and Elon Musk’s SpaceX to put the first human on Mars may not be decided by who can build the better rocket, but instead by who can engineer the most versatile and efficient microbe, says a Motley Fool report.

Maintaining supply lines with the red planet’s future colonists would be exceedingly difficult; the trip takes 200 days, and given orbital differences the window for this “shortest” route comes only once every couple of years. The volume and cost requirements of sending several years’ worth of fuels and materials to even a small colony would be prohibitive.

Industrial biotechnology is expected to play a key role in helping the first Martians bridge the gap between supply runs. Engineered microbes could be used to convert Mars’ existing resources into colonial staples like rocket fuel, building materials, and medicine. While considerable work remains to done to make these production processes efficient under known, terrestrial conditions, biological engineering methods are rapidly accelerating.