Chinese scientists found a desert moss that can survive on Mars

Chinese scientists discover desert moss that could survive on Mars

/ 07:53 AM July 08, 2024

Several sci-fi movies have depicted life on Mars, but what does it take to turn that into reality? China found one of the keys to doing that: desert moss.

China Global Television Network (CGTN) said Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography scientists found that Syntrichia caninervis can withstand Mars-like conditions. 

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Future colonization missions could deploy this plant to make the Red Planet greener. As a result, it could help make Mars habitable, allowing humans to live there. 

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How did the scientists test the desert moss?

The Guardian says Syntrichia caninervis is a moss indigenous to Antarctica and the Mojave desert. The Xinjiang researchers tested the desert moss’ adaptability to Mars-like conditions and published their findings on The Innovation. 

They discovered that the desert moss survived and recovered quickly from near-total dehydration. Moreover, it regenerated under normal growth conditions after gamma ray exposure for up to 30 days at 196°C (384.8°F) and up to 30 days at -80°C (-112°F). 

The Lunar and Planetary Institute says the Red Planet’s atmosphere is not enough to block gamma-ray radiation. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns it is a serious hazard to humans. 

The research team also built a simulation that mimics Mars-like temperatures, gasses, and other conditions. After seven days of exposure, the desert moss thrived. 

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Also, the Chinese scientists tried dried Syntrichia caninervis samples, and they performed better than the regular ones. 

“The unique insights obtained in our study lay the foundation for outer space colonization using naturally selected plants adapted to extreme stress conditions,” they wrote in their paper.

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“Looking to the future, we expect that this promising moss could be brought to Mars or the moon to further test the possibility of plant colonization and growth in outer space,” they added.

Growing plants on Mars is a significant step for human colonization because they could provide the oxygen people need to live there. Moreover, they could double as a food source. 

However, University of Florida moss expert Prof. Stuart McDaniel says Syntrichia caninervis has not proven it can generate oxygen on Mars. 

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Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute researcher Dr. Agata Zupanska admitted the Chinese research was promising. However, “Implying that moss, or any other pioneering species, is ready to terraform Mars, or any other outer planet, is an exaggeration.” 

TOPICS: Mars colonization, technology
TAGS: Mars colonization, technology

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