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NASA is plotting to send astronauts to the Red Planet as early as the 2030s in a landmark first for the human race.

The space agency is determined to explore the planet for signs of present or past life, with its Curiosity rover recently finding what one scientist believes are "trace fossils".

And before we get there, a group of scientists claim we will have developed the technology that renders Mars able to host human colonies.

Vasco Guerra, at the University of Lisbon in Portugal, thinks plasma technology can be used to ensure humans have a sufficient oxygen supply.

He told Astrowatch: "Our main conclusion is precisely that Mars has nearly ideal conditions for creating oxygen from carbon dioxide by non-thermal plasmas.

"The pressure and temperature ranges in the about 96 percent carbon dioxide Martian atmosphere favour the vibrational excitation and subsequent up-pumping of the asymmetric stretching mode, which is believed to be a key factor for an efficient plasma dissociation, at the expense of the excitation of the other modes."

Plasma technology is the process of changing matter from one state to another, for instance a solid into a liquid, or liquid into gas.

For Mars, Guerra believes the carbon dioxide dominating the planet can provide oxygen.

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Category: Science