KP Student develops Mars soil simulant for his Astrobiology research

A student from Kohat University has done first of its kind project in the Field of Astrobiology and Mars Colonization.

Behzad Qureshi is an M.Phil. scholar at the department of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering KUST. He has analyzed the growth and survival of rhizosphere soil bacteria (plant friendly bacteria) in Mars soil simulant under Martian conditions. This can potentially help us grow plants on Mars for a sustainable human settlement on Mars.

Behzad Qureshi

According to the researcher one of the major challenges was to get Mars soil simulant from NASA. To overcome the long and expensive process of acquiring simulants from foreign space agencies Behzad himself developed a new Mars soil simulant named KP-Mars-1 (inspired by NASA JSC-Mars-1).

The process of developing this soil simulant was in itself an adventure. First of all, he located different mountainous sites in KPK which potentially had resemblance with Mars soil. Then he shortlisted 7 sites and tested their soil for chemical compositions and physical state using different scientific techniques.

Also Read: Internship Opportunity for Students at SUPARCO, Pakistan’s National Space Agency

KP-Mars-01 (Mars Soil Simulant)

After analyzing the soil samples, It went through a series of processes to make it as similar to Mars soil as possible. 70 to 85% similarity was obtained in these processes.

This is the first of its kind effort done in Pakistan.

Thesis Copy (Image: Behzad Qureshi)

In the next phase, Behzad checked the growth of rhizosphere soil bacteria if they can survive in the Mars Soil under Martian conditions.

He found that bacteria cannot grow but can survive the harsh conditions of Mars.

Behzad has a keen interest in space sciences and wants to see mankind become a multi planetary specie. The inspiration for this comes from Space-X CEO Elon Musk (FRS).

Behzad qureshi working in Lab

Behzad, in his future projects, wants to focus on growing plants on Mars for agricultural needs and testing the production of sustainable clean energy for future Mars colonists using synthetic biology.

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