NASA May Put a Greenhouse on the Red Planet
Mustardlike plants could be the first Earthlings to call Mars home if NASA decides to let them hitch a ride on the next rover.
NASA’s proposed Mars Plant Experiment, or MPX, aims to answer two questions: Can plants germinate and grow in Martian gravity? And can they thrive while being bombarded by cosmic rays? To find out, investigators would attach a small, clear cube filled with carbon dioxide to the rover’s shoulder, says Heather Smith, a deputy principal investigator for MPX. Inside would be 250 seeds of the Arabidopsis plant, a fast-growing cousin of mustard chosen because it has been studied exhaustively by scientists. After the rover lands the seeds would be soaked with water; heaters and LEDs would regulate their temperature. Over the next 10 to 15 days, via sensors and cameras, the world could observe the first beings we know of to be born, live and die on another planet.