Possible Plant Life to Arrive on Mars in 2021
When one thinks of Mars, the Red Planet, it seems completely barren and certainly devoid of any greenery or flowers. However, that could change by early 2021 as NASA has started plans for the 2020 Mars rover to arrive bearing a mini-greenhouse from Earth.
NASA researchers have proposedusing the Mars rover to conduct a plant-growth investigation known as the Mars Plant Experiment (MPX), which would seek to establish whether there's potential for a sustainable plant base on Mars, which would be vital for its eventual colonization.
The experiment will also be an important test to see whether a manned mission would have potential to succeed despite Mars's relatively hostile environment. Since Mars's climate is quite different from that on Earth, with temperatures averaging at -63 degrees Celsius, as well as featuring a carbon-dioxide rich atmosphere and increased radiation from the sun, it will be critical to see how Earth life responds to the planet's conditions.
The experiment won't require the 2020 rover to do any gardening chores like digging holes, planting seeds and watering plants. Instead, the experiment will be a passive one, and will simply observe what happens when Earth life is allowed to escape and is given the opportunity to germinate and grow on Mars.
Scientists plan to conduct these tests by affixing a clear "CubeSat" box containing around 200 seeds of Arabidopsis (a small flowering plant often used for scientific research) to the outside of the 2020 rover. The seeds will get water when the rover touches down on Mars, and then will be given the opportunity to grow for 15 days. Should plants form Earth prove able to thrive in the Martian environment, it could lead to the development of sustainable greenhouses there.
NASA scientist Heather Smith described how bringing our planet's life to another planet would be a very significant milestone for humanity by saying, "It would be the first multicellular organism to grow, live, and die on another planet."
The Curiosity rover deserves a lot of credit for helping show that this experiment would be worthwhile. In August of 2012, Curiosity affirmed that a site on Mars called Yellowknife Bay was habitable billions of years ago, showing that mars can indeed support microbial life.