Hidden Nook

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Monday, August 08, 2005



Growing Plants On Mars


[Media Source*]

(Cross Posted on Blogger News)

(Universe Today) If humans are going to live on Mars, we're going to need to learn how to grow plants in the planet's thin atmosphere, poor soil, severe cold, and total lack of water. This environment will put plants into a severe state of stress and shut down their metabolism, but NASA scientists think they've got strategies to help them cope.

Although some people may find the idea of eating genetically altered food, especially plants as "disconcerting," this may be the only alternative if a colony is to be established on Mars. Unlike it's lunar cousin, Mars lacks many of the basic nutrients needed in order to adequately produce a sizable harvest, especially one that could support a colony.


Plants don't get anxious in the same way that humans do. But they do suffer from stress, and they deal with it in much the same way. They produce a chemical signal -- superoxide (O2-) -- that puts the rest of the plant on high alert. Superoxide, however, is toxic; too much of it will end up harming the plant.

Scientists are formulating ways around this by studying a microbe known as Pyrococcus furiosus which thrives in superheated vents at the bottom of the ocean. These microbes are somehow able to adjust to the extreme conditions of the vents as well as the frigid temperatures of the ocean which makes them prime candidates for "gene splicing."

If the genetic engineering is successful, colonists will be able to grow a variety of crops ensuring mankind's survival on the red planet. Scientists have already begun introducing these genes into plants and will be able to tell within two years whether this experiment will not only enable colonists to "Terra-farm" Mars but other hostile worlds as well.



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By Darnell Clayton • 3:44 PM • Email Post • •

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