Ask a Question forum: Growing plants on Mars

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Name: Kevin Langley
London UK
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AmberLeaf
Sep 28, 2016 6:17 PM CST
Hi all, I was just wondering about the possibilities of how well plants could grow on Mars and type of plants that could be most ideal for the harsh conditions on Mars? of course they would need to be growing in a greenhouse with good soil. This has always interested me.

I'm thinking something like a hybrid cacti plant could grow on mars that requires little water that will grow in a cold climate with 1% atmosphere.
[Last edited by AmberLeaf - Sep 28, 2016 6:28 PM (+)]
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Name: Daisy
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
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DaisyI
Sep 28, 2016 8:18 PM CST
You would have to provide an atmosphere (nothing will grow in the atmospere of Mars), warmth, a light source, water and everything that Martian soil doesn't have. What Martian soil does have is a lot of nutrients but what it doesn't have is all the bacteria that makes soil alive.

With a sealed greenhouse, an artificial atmospere, a light and heat source, water and bacteria, you could grow anything you wanted.

The only thing that Mars has going for it is nutrient rich soil.



Name: Philip Becker
Fresno California (Zone 8a)
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Philipwonel
Sep 29, 2016 3:09 PM CST
I agree when are you going to Mars ???
Name: Kevin Langley
London UK
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AmberLeaf
Sep 30, 2016 4:07 PM CST
I'm not going to Mars anytime soon, but I think the topic of growing plants on Mars is certainly an interesting subject. The ISS International Space Station have grown plants in zero gravity which look pretty interesting... they have also flowered plants on the ISS as well.
Name: Will Creed
NYC
Professional interior landscaper
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WillC
Oct 1, 2016 9:54 AM CST
What is the point? There is no life on Mars of any kind except when humans set foot there and walk around in their space suits.
Will Creed
Horticultural Help, NYC
[url=www.HorticulturalHelp.com]www.HorticulturalHelp.com[/url]
Name: Daisy
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
Not all who wander are lost
Garden Sages Plant Identifier
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DaisyI
Oct 1, 2016 10:06 AM CST
But if people did decide to colonize Mars, they would need to grow something to eat. The grocery would be a long drive...
Name: Kevin Langley
London UK
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AmberLeaf
Oct 7, 2016 11:05 AM CST
WillC said:What is the point? There is no life on Mars of any kind except when humans set foot there and walk around in their space suits.


There is always a point to a point... I know it will be a while before anybody goes to Mars but I think the research and experimentation is very important not just for growing plants on Mars but for other things as well like underground farming and things like that.

Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
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RickCorey
Oct 7, 2016 4:04 PM CST
My guess is that we will perfect closed ecosystems for space craft and space stations or habitats on the Moon and asteroids before we terraform Mars enough for anything other than lichens to grow. Whatever greenhouse system fed them during the trip to Mars would continue to feed them on the surface (that's my guess, anyway).

I would also guess that any higher plants from Earth would need a lot of breeding or gene-engineering to endure Mars' natural temperatures (-70 °F average, 70 °F to −240 °F extremes), extreme dryness and near-vacuum (and what little air they have is almost oxygen-free).

Inside a greenhouse, at least Mars' daylength is close to Earth's: 24 hours, 39 minutes and 35 seconds. Need to heat it and pressurize it.
Light would be much dimmer than on Earth - like 42% as bright, give or take depending on latitude.
Considering that Mars' near-vacuum is mostly CO2, we could enrich the greenhouse's air with extra CO2.

The greenhouse would have to provide warmth, water, oxygen and soil. Maybe supplementary light.

Except for the gravity (38% of Earth's) , if the greenhouse mimicked Earth closely enough, it might be able to accommodate almost any Earth plants. (Since Lunar gravity is only 17% of earth, any plants adapted to Lunar gravity ought to consider Mars "heavy".)

The issue might come down to how "expensive" it was in terms of power and consumables hauled from Earth or asteroids to make a greenhouse THAT Earth-like.

We might start looking for (or designing) plants able to grow with LESS light, gravity, water, heat and air pressure. The easier it is to make the greenhouse "tolerable enough" for the plants, the larger it can be with limited resources, and the more people it could support with oxygen and food.

I guess I would start by looking at food crops that have adapted to very cold, arid mountain tops with huge daily temperature extremes (if there are any such crops). Then I would start breeding them and engineering their genes. Ideally, we would start that breeding project right now or sooner in order to be ready by the time space travel is 1,000 times cheaper.

But I wonder if we COULD seed Mars with lichens as part of a terraforming attempt (turn CO2 into oxygen and organic matter)? Assuming we were not concerned about destroying the current ecosystem and any life forms that might be lurking. And assuming that sources of water could be found. And that politicians didn't divert the funding to oil company subsidies.

One science fiction novel presumed some cheap form of space travel (hydrogen fusion powered mass drivers?) but then complained there was nowhere to GO TO (where you could live outside an insulated tin can).

So they sent fleets of ships out to the Oort Cloud, to nudge the orbits of many comets, so they would arch back into the main Solar System and crash on Mars! This warmed the planet and released mega tons of water. I think it would also plow and level the surface like a giant roto-tiller!

The idea was to terraform Mars for some decades or centuries, then move people in and continue terraforming.

I would bet that we would have thriving colonies on Luna and asteroids, and orbiting habitats, decades before we have anything more than sealed domes on Mars with self-sufficient, closed, artificial ecosystems.

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