[meteorite-list] NASA May Put Greenhouse on Mars in 2021

From: Mendy.Ouzillou <mendy.ouzillou_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Thu, 8 May 2014 17:10:39 -0700
Message-ID: <96F6EF14-40B7-4516-B1FC-14AD39C2CAEB_at_gmail.com>

Just watched an old Dr. Who episode about that very project. Did not turn out well ...

Mendy Ouzillou

On May 8, 2014, at 4:44 PM, Ron Baalke via Meteorite-list <meteorite-list at meteoritecentral.com> wrote:


NASA May Put Greenhouse on Mars in 2021
By Mike Wall
May 6, 2014

Plant life may touch down on Mars in 2021.

Researchers have proposed putting a plant-growth experiment on NASA's
next Mars rover, which is scheduled to launch in mid-2020 and land on
the Red Planet in early 2021. The investigation, known as the Mars Plant
Experiment (MPX), could help lay the foundation for the colonization of
Mars, its designers say.

"In order to do a long-term, sustainable base on Mars, you would want
to be able to establish that plants can at least grow on Mars," MPX deputy
principal investigator Heather Smith, of NASA's Ames Research Center in
Mountain View, California, said April 24 at the Humans 2 Mars conference
in Washington, D.C. "This would be the first step in that - we just send
the seeds there and watch them grow."

The MPX team - led by fellow Ames scientist Chris McKay - isn't suggesting
that the 2020 Mars rover should play gardener, digging a hole with its
robotic arm and planting seeds in the Red Planet's dirt. Rather, the experiment
would be entirely self-contained, eliminating the chance that Earth life
could escape and perhaps get a foothold on Mars.

MPX would employ a clear "CubeSat" box - the case for a cheap and tiny
satellite - which would be affixed to the exterior of the 2020 rover.
This box would hold Earth air and about 200 seeds of Arabidopsis, a small
flowering plant that's commonly used in scientific research.

The seeds would receive water when the rover touched down on Mars, and
would then be allowed to grow for two weeks or so.

"In 15 days, we'll have a little greenhouse on Mars," Smith said.

MPX would provide an organism-level test of the Mars environment, showing
how Earth life deals with the Red Planet's relatively high radiation levels
and low gravity, which is about 40 percent as strong as that of Earth,
she added.

"We would go from this simple experiment to the greenhouses on Mars for
a sustainable base," Smith said. "That would be the goal."

In addition to its potential scientific returns, MPX would provide humanity
with a landmark moment, she added.

"It also would be the first multicellular organism to grow, live and die
on another planet," Smith said.

The 2020 Mars rover is based heavily on NASA's Curiosity rover, which
landed in August 2012 to determine if the Red Planet has ever been capable
of supporting microbial life. Curiosity has already answered that question
in the affirmative, finding that a site called Yellowknife Bay was, indeed,
habitable billions of years ago.

NASA wants the 2020 rover to search for signs of past Mars life, and collect
rock and soil samples for eventual return to Earth. But the space agency
is still working out the details of the robot's mission - for example,
figuring out what instruments it will carry.

NASA received 58 instrument proposals for the rover during its call for
submissions, which lasted from September 2013 until January of this year.
Final selections should be made by June or so, NASA officials have said.

Curiosity totes 10 instruments around Mars, so the 2020 rover may end
up with a similar amount of scientific gear.


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Received on Thu 08 May 2014 08:10:39 PM PDT

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