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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
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.
Comment icon #36 Posted by rashore on 1 June, 2014, 14:49
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?
Comment icon #37 Posted by Waspie_Dwarf on 1 June, 2014, 18:28
Personally I don't care what you think. You have repeatedly demonstrated [s]an almost[/s] 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. True. 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 mathematics supports the existence of... [More]
Comment icon #38 Posted by taniwha on 1 June, 2014, 21:41
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,... [More]
Comment icon #39 Posted by taniwha on 2 June, 2014, 0:00
This is only your opinion but you state it as a fact. If you measure a distance from point A to point B we will know its length. Knowing the length, there is no need to measure the distance to the centre point, C, as it can be simply calculated with accuracy. This is the same formula that anyone can use to confidently predict that plants will grow in 1/3g. Both A and B are known, C is a given. Who can say what will happen in the next billionth of a second? Using your own estimates the future is based on no solid certainty at all. You obviously prefer your own version of rubbis... [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
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 that life is very hard to extinguish completely, once it gets a foothold.
Comment icon #42 Posted by rashore on 2 June, 2014, 14:15
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 produc... [More]
Comment icon #43 Posted by taniwha on 3 June, 2014, 11:39
Lol, whats wrong with some light science fiction in a discussion about Mars? I once grew a tomato plant and when I decided to transplant it within the garden you can imagine my suprise to find it had potatoes growing from its roots. Would this be a pomato or a totato plant? Lol, so yes, im no expert. If a plant new~age dawns on Mars we all have to wait and see, but bionic mushrooms or bionic plants in general, from what i understand, could enhance photosynthesis by as much as 30%, this might be a definite advantage on Mars. Are bionic plants even edible? The science is only in its e... [More]

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