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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

5/7/2014 (11 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The first greenhouse on Mars may arrive in 2021.

NASA is mulling the possibility of growing plants on mars as early as 2021 in an experiment to see if they can thrive in the Martian soil. If successful, the experiment would serve as the next step in preparing to send humans to the Red Planet.

Scientists are already testing how plants could grow on Mars in laboratories on Earth.

Scientists are already testing how plants could grow on Mars in laboratories on Earth.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

5/7/2014 (11 months ago)

Published in Technology

Keywords: Mars, plants, MPX, greenhouse, colonization, 2021


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Researchers want to place a miniature greenhouse next to a Mars Rover scheduled for launch in 2020. The experiment known as the Mars Plans Experiment (MOX) would determine if plants could grow in the soil on Mars.

The Martian atmosphere is mostly carbon dioxide, which would allow the plants to grow and give off oxygen as a by-product. However, the soil would have to be favorable. Also, Mars is extremely cold so the plants would have to be able to survive freezing temperatures. Radiation is also a problem because Mars has a thin atmosphere and solar radiation effectively sterilizes the surface. Mars also has just 40 percent the gravity of Earth.

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However, by using a greenhouse, the plants could be warmed more than they would be in the outside air, and water could be fed to them via the rover from a small supply. The experiment would also have to be self-contained to prevent any terrestrial contamination of the environment on Mars.

The experiment would only last about 10 to 15 days, so there would be no plans to grow anything substantial. Instead, it's mostly a test of the Martian soil and atmosphere to sustain plant life.

From this experiment, more complex studies can be performed to determine how quickly a human settlement on the Red Planet could be established. If plants and other organisms can grow naturally on the planet, then it will be all the more easy to sustain humans there.

However, if it is impossible or difficult to grow plants on Mars, then it will place a significant hurdle in the path of settlement, which is widely expected to begin in the decades to come.

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