Whether it’s from NASA or a private space company, Mars could very well see its first human visitors within a decade’s time. These visitors will have to face a barren, truly alien landscape the likes of which no human has experienced before. But before they land on Mars, NASA would like to make sure they are greeted with a bouquet of flowers.
NASA will stash a number of seeds aboard the new second-generation Curiosity Rover, that it believes will be able to survive the harsh environment of the red planet. The project, dubbed the Mars Plant Experiment (MPX), will allow NASA to see if it could get a few flowers (specifically a species of Arabidopsis) to grow while subjected to Martian radiation.
The vegetation, however, will not be planted on Martian soil as NASA does not wish to harm the whatever ecosystem might actually exist on Mars before astronauts have a chance to explore the red planet themselves.The Curiosity will begin the MPX project after its Martian landing, slated for early 2021, watering and hopefully germinating the Arabidopsis seeds.
Results will be obtained after only 15 days, after which scientists will know if low Martian gravity and high radiation levels will support plant life. If the experiment is successful, life for future Martian colonists will be a lot easier and more abundant than expected before.