View Full Version : Discussion: Trick Plants to Grow on Mars

2005-Aug-08, 04:33 PM
SUMMARY: 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. By introducing genes from extremophile microbes that can withstand severe changes in environment, scientists are hoping to modify plants so they won't shut down their metabolism in response to stress.

View full article (http://www.universetoday.com/am/publish/grow_plants_by_relieve_anxiety.html)

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2005-Aug-08, 06:57 PM
Then too, thin atmosphere, poor soils, low temperatures and pressures are not necessarily a hazard. Here is a USC study that essentially makes agriculture just another facility requirement for the human habitat design (http://www.lpi.usra.edu/publications/repor.../CB-979/usc.pdf (http://www.lpi.usra.edu/publications/reports/CB-979/usc.pdf)). In this piece by Peter Kohk (http://www.asi.org/adb/06/09/03/02/093/redhousing.html), the 'poor soil' issue might be more like "It is not precise to say that Mars is 'barren', only that it is 'virginal'". Then there is NASA's Haughton-Mars Project in Canada: http://www.arctic-mars.org/.

This Brian Anderson story (http://www.lpi.usra.edu/publications/newsl...b85/plants.html (http://www.lpi.usra.edu/publications/newsletters/lpib/lpib85/plants.html)) also shows the practicality of 'closed-loop' systems for space ag, on Mars or elsewhere (and get a load of that wheat yield!).

But then there's this story, we might be sending plants up in a couple of years, in a special greenhouse structure, that will introduce some very unrecognizable earth life to the martian environment, check this one out about "jelly plants": http://www.spacesciences.com/headlines/y20...jellyplants.htm (http://www.spacesciences.com/headlines/y2001/4review_jellyplants.htm)

2005-Aug-09, 01:57 PM
>>The cosmic vocation of humanity, unsuspected by all the world&#39;s pretentious scriptural traditions, may indeed be to bring life to places where it can survive, but never originate on its own. Only an intelligent species can serve this function. Humanity then becomes "the" reproductive organ of Gaia (meant as the name of Earth-Life in aggregate, etc<<
This is wasteful arrogand human hubris. Mars has to be left to evolve it&#39;s own potentiality. Earth has managed a pretty good job until homo sapience&#39;s brainmass turned malignant (borrowing from A Koestler) and started a destructive rampage. We must wake up, come to our (remaining) sense and Gaia will cooperate in the healing process. Could be it&#39;s too late. In that case; good riddance to the naked ape, Mother Nature can continue the superb job without us.

2005-Aug-09, 06:09 PM
humanity... may ... bring life to places where it can survive, but never originate on its own. Only an intelligent species can serve this function.
The ALH 84001 studies show that it is feasible for a meteor to push a life bearing rock into space, and have that rock land elsewhere. It looks as if this process does not require humans. Granted, humans can do it faster - in years rather than geologic time. And, if you want plants on Mars, it appears that humans can speed up the process of getting higher life forms (instead of just single celled organisms) up and running quickly.

This is wasteful arrogand human hubris.
What hubris do you suggest? I&#39;m not willing to sit on my thumbs here. I&#39;d like to make some progress. As for arrogant, that remains to be seen.

My guess is that Mars has life. It&#39;s not too far along, and it will be demonstratable that it is related to Earth life (because the planets aren&#39;t completely isolated). If it turns out that it&#39;s really Earth life there, or if Mars turns out to be barren, then planting our own brand of life there does not pose any particular ethical problem. You could call it arrogant, or just practical.

As far as i know, we can identify genes, figure out what protiens those genes create, figure out what those protiens do, and splice those genes into another organism. What i don&#39;t know is if we have any idea how to get those genes to operate when they are supposed to. That would be the gene regulation - the programable code, if you will. This code would be responsible for things like: when this happens, create this stuff... without that, i don&#39;t see how we can get the job done.

Well, we still know how to do breeding programs and select for what we want. This won&#39;t take geologic time, and has some safety advantages.

2005-Aug-09, 07:42 PM
I&#39;m sure if we find something is already there, and discover the dynamics of its existence, be it fragile or robust, certainly we would take a different tack. But if the world is empty--then what is so wasteful about using it&#33;

It reminds me of a meeting I attended. The motion was made, and seconded, to adjourn at the end of the day, the gavel came down and the speaker said, "All in favor, leave." So we did. In this case, I doubt anyone will be twisting "guest"&#39;s arm when future new martian residents are shipped off. (It probably won&#39;t be me though, I&#39;ve got dreams for a little crater on the moon.)