Tim Hodson is the editorial director of GPN and Big Grower. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
For many people, gardening can be a far out experience. Well, if everything goes according to plan, some researchers at NASA plan to make it an out of this world mission.
That's because scientists at the space agency are hoping to put a greenhouse on Mars by 2021.
The goal of the Mars Plant Experience (MPX) is to see if plants would actually grow on the Red Planet. If they do, then it could help set the stage for eventual colonization by 2030.
The initial experiment is to attach a "mini-greenhouse" on the Mars rover that is scheduled to launch in 2020. The greenhouse is actually a CubeSat box that would hold air from Earth and 200 Arabidopsis seeds. Arabidopsis is a small flowering plant related to the cabbage and mustard plant.
When the rover reaches Mars in 2021, the seeds then would be watered and in about two weeks plants should be growing. The experiment will provide the researchers with organism-level data on how plants deal with the high levels of radiation and low levels of gravity on Mars. This information would then be used in the plans to send humans to Mars.
The mini-greenhouse isn't a done deal just yet. NASA administrators are currently reviewing 58 different proposals for the 2020 rover and final selections for this mission should be made in the coming weeks.
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