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Space & Astronomy

'Near-indestructible' desert moss could be the key to terraforming Mars

By T.K. Randall
July 7, 2024 · Comment icon 4 comments

Could a hardy type of moss grow on the surface of Mars ? Image Credit: NASA / JPL
Scientists have identified a type of desert moss that can survive in the most extreme conditions imaginable.
The conditions on the surface of Mars - for life as we know it, at least - are undeniably hellish, so if anything is actually going to survive there, it also needs to be pretty extreme.

Enter Syntrichia caninervis - a type of desert moss found in various harsh environments around the world ranging from the driest deserts to the freezing rocky outcrops of Antarctica.

In a new study, scientists determined that this remarkable moss can thrive in some of the most extreme environments on Earth and can even withstand large doses of lethal radiation that would be fatal to almost anything else.
Incredibly, it might even be hardier than the tardigrade - a type of microscopic creature famous for its ability to survive in extreme conditions and even in the vacuum of space.

It's for this reason that scientists believe that Syntrichia caninervis could probably grow on the surface of Mars as well and thus be useful as part of future efforts to terraform the planet.

Terraforming is a process that gradually changes a planet's atmosphere to make it more hospitable to humans - potentially even making it possible for people to live unaided on its surface.

While moss alone certainly won't be enough to make Mars habitable, it could prove to be a useful part of any future efforts to turn the Red Planet into a 'home away from home' for our future descendants.

Source: Live Science | Comments (4)




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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Portre 11 days ago
Book 2 of Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy.
Comment icon #2 Posted by Bendy Demon 4 days ago
I recall talking to my dad about terraforming mars and said that before we even begin to undertake such a venture that we need to locate plant life that can live in the most inhospitable environments and maybe even try to create hybrid plants that can also produce viable seeds or spores on its own and try to send the spores/seeds to the planet. I know..stupid idea/simplistic/ignorant/etc but maybe it is worth trying. Anyways it is a neat idea to consider.
Comment icon #3 Posted by Montello 1 day ago
it would be hard teraforming mars
Comment icon #4 Posted by Piney 1 day ago
Yup  Having no magnetic field is going to be a huge problem. 


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