It is possible to grow various plants including crops on the surface of Mars, researchers have said.
Experts carried out an experiment lasting 50 days with 14 plants species using artificial Martian and lunar soil, provided by US space agency Nasa.
Ecologist Wieger Wamelink, of the Dutch research institute Alterra of Wageningen University, said the findings are a “big surprise”.
“Some species such as rye and cress were already sprouting within 24 hours. Eventually plants on Mars soil were even blossoming. We fertilised them with a brush, with some even seeding. It was exciting to watch.”
Some 840 pots were planted with 4,200 seeds. When researchers watered the two soil types, they discovered that while Martian soil held water well, moon sand did not.
All plants in the Martian soil germinated with the seeds of crops such as rye and cress germinating best. A large proportion of the plants were still alive after 50 days in the greenhouse.
Meanwhile the germination of plants in lunar soil was significantly less and the growth of all species much worse.
The Martian and lunar sand supplied by Nasa was so-called regolith, the basis of which is volcanic soil from Hawaii and sand from Arizona.
Mr Wamelink hopes his group can continue with their experiments, saying: “We want to know more.”
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