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NASA planning to grow plants on Mars by 2021


Posted on Saturday, 10 May, 2014 | Comment icon 43 comments

The next rover will be very similar to Curiosity. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
The space agency's next rover could be conducting its very own planet-growth experiment on Mars.
The plants will be contained within a special sealed box along with soil, air and a regular sprinkling of water to help them grow over the course of a couple of weeks. The experiment would be a first step towards the future colonization of the planet.

"In order to do a long-term, sustainable base on Mars, you would want to be able to establish that plants can at least grow on Mars," said investigator Heather Smith. "This would be the first step in that... we just send the seeds there and watch them grow."

It is still unknown how the conditions on Mars, including exposure from radiation, will affect the chances that plants can grow there, even when contained within a sealed Earth-like environment. If the plants do manage to survive however then it will be good news for future missions.

"It also would be the first multicellular organism to grow, live and die on another planet," said Smith.

Source: Discovery News | Comments (43)

Tags: Mars, Rover

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #34 Posted by Frank Merton on 1 June, 2014, 12:06
By the time we get to Mars it will be covered with ragweed, dandelion, and crabgrass.
Comment icon #35 Posted by taniwha on 1 June, 2014, 12:25
Actually there are seeds that sprout faster, like marigolds, sunflowers, lettuces and some other greens.. I think hemp sprouts faster than beans in general too. However, the problem is, none of those have the communal root properties I was wondering about. Beans could be used for food without any pollination- they are considered perfect flowers. Many peas, lettuces and nightshades have perfect flowers too. However, things like legumes and nightshades have some rather more serious aerial structures that might be more affected by a change in gravity. I think it might be affected because I know t... [More]
Comment icon #36 Posted by rashore on 1 June, 2014, 14:49
What about glow-in-the darks, have you brought your seeds yet? They might be able to provide energy efficient lighting for a colony. Hey, toast, isnt this the same type of Arabidopsis we know can grow in zero g? Are they safe to eat? Personally I think Frankenplants might hold the key to terraforming Mars. Maybe we could scatter bionic mushrooms over the martian wild west, they might be able to decontaminate some toxic soils. Other plants could be grown that are milked for their electricity. No glowing seeds for me- I'm a heritage grower. And yes, thale cress is edible, more notably as a pot h... [More]
Comment icon #37 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 1 June, 2014, 18:28
I think you are half right and half wrong. Personally I don't care what you think. You have repeatedly demonstrated an almost total ignorance of what science is, what it does and why it does it. I know that you are half wrong and half VERY wrong. Your opinion is totally irrelevant. We use mathematic predictions all the time. True. The truth can also be known without observation, it can be worked out. Not true. A hypothesis can be based on mathematical calculations but it will only become an accepted theory (i.e. considered as fact) if the mathematical model is backed up by observation. An exam... [More]
Comment icon #38 Posted by taniwha on 1 June, 2014, 21:41
No glowing seeds for me- I'm a heritage grower. And yes, thale cress is edible, more notably as a pot herb than a spring green. Not sure just how much energy efficient lighting thale cress would throw off- it glows due to stress, so we would have to constantly have the plants under stress. There are other plants now that glow without the stress requirement that would probably be better for lighting. I'm not sure what the point of making mushrooms bionic would be? What would be installed, and what would that devices purpose be? If constant stress is whats needed to ignite bioluminescence then M... [More]
Comment icon #39 Posted by taniwha on 2 June, 2014, 0:00
Personally I don't care what you think. You have repeatedly demonstrated an almost total ignorance of what science is, what it does and why it does it. I know that you are half wrong and half VERY wrong. Your opinion is totally irrelevant. This is only your opinion but you state it as a fact. Not true. A hypothesis can be based on mathematical calculations but it will only become an accepted theory (i.e. considered as fact) if the mathematical model is backed up by observation. An example, Stephen Hawking predicted a form of radiation which occurs near a black hole. Quantum theory and mathemat... [More]
Comment icon #40 Posted by Frank Merton on 2 June, 2014, 2:59
It strikes me as highly likely, almost a certainty, that plants that can grow on Mars could be found, even without any special arrangements, and a lot of special arrangements would be possible. There is lurking in the back of my head a worry that whatever we introduce might become invasive, hence my joke above, and wipe out anything native. I have to assume by the time we start such activity we will be pretty damn sure nothing native is there.
Comment icon #41 Posted by taniwha on 2 June, 2014, 11:32
It strikes me as highly likely, almost a certainty, that plants that can grow on Mars could be found, even without any special arrangements, and a lot of special arrangements would be possible. There is lurking in the back of my head a worry that whatever we introduce might become invasive, hence my joke above, and wipe out anything native. I have to assume by the time we start such activity we will be pretty damn sure nothing native is there. I think there is still a huge chance that micro life, subterannean or aquatic could exist in pockets on Mars... It seems, in the case of Earth anyway th... [More]
Comment icon #42 Posted by rashore on 2 June, 2014, 14:15
If constant stress is whats needed to ignite bioluminescence then Mars might be the perfect wonderland for these synthetic oddities and who knows what other useful hybrid species are possible. Perhaps thermal plants will be developed that can provide warmth by radiating heat energy, or perhaps plants that are able to grow body parts with the same ease as tomatoes, or maybe a synthetic form of plant plasma will one day power photosynthetic mammals. It is interesting that half of all biological species on Earth exists as a fungi. Even if you know of the brilliant mycologist Paul Stamets, his res... [More]
Comment icon #43 Posted by taniwha on 3 June, 2014, 11:39
Are you sure you really mean bionic and not biotic? There is no such thing as naturally bionic. Mushrooms are NOT nor could they be naturally bionic. Bionic is the installing of electric or mechanical parts into the body, like the 6 Million dollar man or Borgs. Humans could create bionic mushrooms, like injecting them with nanites, but to what purpose? However, mushrooms are biotic, as in living or once living part of a community. It remains to be seen how Earths biotics deal with Mars abiotics. You don't want to constantly stress plants, they die much faster and tend to be less productive tha... [More]


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