So I was reading this article on BuzzFeed about missions to Mars yesterday and something really upset me...
Alright. Someone isn't thinking. At all. Don't get me wrong, we are not ready for manned missions to Mars unless they are suicide missions. But, we can easily solve the above mentioned problem.
So in the greenhouses you use some gas sensors and a simple pump to pump greenhouse air out and atmospheric air in... you see the Martian atmosphere is
Earth's Atmosphere: 78.09% nitrogen, 20.95% oxygen, 0.93% argon, 0.039 carbon dioxde and miscellaneous traces
Mars' Atmosphere: 96% carbon dioxide, 1.9% argon, 1.9% nitrogen and miscellaneous traces.
Many forms of algae can create nitrogen from carbon dioxide as part of their day to day life so you could keep nitrogen levels at 78% via your algae. You figure out the best carbon dioxide levels for the plants in the greenhouse(s) and keep it there, if it's toxic to humans they use breathing apparatus or simply pump air out and then bring it to human-safe levels during work periods. PROBLEM SOLVED.
Wait, hold up Ryan, where are we getting all of that water for tanks and tanks full of algae? Well first you take enough to have some small tanks going. Then we turn to biological hydrogen production from algae, photosynthesis in cyanobacteria and green algae splits water into hydrogen ions and electrons. So use algae to make hydrogen.
Pretty much get two parts hydrogen for every part of oxygen in something not unlike an engine (fuel cell). Introduce a burst of energy (say a spark) and you get an explosion. You now have an explosion and some water. While we don't do this on earth for clean drinking water due to the simple fact it would be extremely dangerous to do this to create enough water for thousands or millions of people, this would be ideal for use on Mars. You see, you have a separate habitat that is used for this, then you have a few small units in the room that are filling with the appropriate gasses, igniting, small amounts of water come out and the small detonations you capture the energy for use. The units refill and detonate again.
While this wouldn't create massive amounts of water, it would slowly add to your available water stores allowing you to bring more algae on, add more crops, support more humans until a better technology is developed (or a cheaper method of delivering supplies to Mars is found) or even until exploration can take place and perhaps find easily accessible water (likely ice) on Mars.