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Why has the Hydrogen Helium universal duo been replaced with Nitrogen Oxygen on planet Earth?

hydrogen helium is all around but astronautes cannot do without oxygen in space

Hydrogen Helium just will not do. Oxygen is essential.

In the universe, the predominant proportion of gases is hydrogen helium 74% and 24%.

Earth’s atmosphere has a totally different composition—nitrogen oxygen, 78% and 21% replace the hydrogen helium mixture.

Earth’s very unusual atmospheric blend of gases is found nowhere else in the universe, to our knowledge.

Earth’s atmosphere in our corner of the Universe is a unique combination of nitrogen and oxygen, along with a mere 1% of all the other vital gases, to support life. You don’t find that on turbulent Jupiter, scorching Venus or barren Mars.

We can ask, “Why are nitrogen and oxygen in the majority on Earth? Where did they originate? How and when did our atmosphere trap them? How and when were these proportions established?”


We can examine the specifications and features of the nitrogen-oxygen atmosphere in the real estate brochure for earth. Take oxygen, for example. We know that as humans; we need oxygen for combustion, for heat and fire to cook our food.

Most of all, we need oxygen to breathe; moreover, that oxygen inside our lungs works in concert with “fuel” from foodstuff to provide the muscular energy we “burn” and the 37°C body heat we need to maintain our vital organs in working order.

We breathe out carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and the phytoplankton and trees carry out a complementary process—combining energy with this carbon dioxide and other elements.

We humans, as well as the birds, fish and animals that surround us, use sugar and oxygen to produce carbon dioxide, water and the energy needed for activity. Conversely, the plants in our meadows, deserts and forests use carbon dioxide, water and energy from the sun to produce sugar and oxygen.

In the mid-90s Biosphere 2 experiments conducted in Arizona, scientists were not able to recreate this balance artificially and oxygen levels dropped to 14% instead of the necessary 20%, with the necessity to pump in more. Without a steady, reliable supply of oxygen, the atmosphere malfunctions and ultimately, there can be no life, no combustion, and no energy released to “run our bodies.”

The Oxygen - Carbon Dioxide cycle for life

Hydrogen-Helium replaced by the Oxygen – Carbon Dioxide cycle for life.

You don’t have to understand the chemical formula in the diagram to comprehend the delicate and continuous balance of oxygen in Earth’s atmospheric biosphere:

The sun’s energy + the multitude and variety of
all the vegetation producing oxygen


The energy from food + the multitude and variety of all of
life’s processes producing carbon dioxide

The hydrogen helium mixture just won’t work for us. The nitrogen oxygen in the exact equilibrium, down through millions of years that has allowed life to survive in our hospitable home biosphere. Such complexity, yet so simple. Imagine that. Read the follow up post as to why the hydrogen helium universal combination had to switch to the nitrogen oxygen duo for life to develop and the role of nitrogen in this duo.

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