(ORDO NEWS) — To survive on Mars, we need to grow food there. However, it will not be as easy as in the movie “The Martian”.
Greenhouses with plants on Mars will most likely look different from what you think – all because of the sun’s radiation
What does it take for humans to live on Mars? Of course, the first step is to successfully get humans to the Red Planet.
Once there, the astronauts face a task that could prove even more difficult: figuring out how to survive in an environment that is very different from Earth’s.
A new study highlights one of the problems – plants on Earth don’t grow as well when exposed to Martian radiation.
Is it possible to grow plants on Mars?
Wiger Vamelink, an ecologist at Wageningen University in the Netherlands who calls himself a space farmer, was frustrated by sci-fi images of growing plants on Mars.
According to him, in films we often see plants grown in greenhouses that do not block solar radiation. Meanwhile, it is made up of high-energy particles that can change the DNA of plants.
Mars lacks the same degree of protection from cosmic radiation that Earth’s atmosphere and magnetic field provide.
To prove his suspicion that cosmic radiation could be harmful to plants, Vamelink decided to test the hypothesis himself.
First, the scientist had to recreate cosmic radiation. The team settled on using gamma rays generated by radioactive cobalt, although the actual cosmic radiation that bombards the surface of Mars is made up of various types of radiation, including alpha and beta particles.
But generating alpha and beta rays on Earth is much more difficult – this would require a particle accelerator, which is unlikely to be occupied for such experiments.
Once Vamelink and his team got the radioactive cobalt, the scientists grew rye and watercress in two groups: one under typical growing conditions, and the other under similar conditions, but with the addition of gamma radiation.
Four weeks after germination, the scientists compared the two groups and saw that the leaves of the plants that were irradiated with gamma rays had abnormal shapes and colors.
Plant weight also varied; the rye plants in the gamma-irradiated group weighed 48% less than the control group, and the gamma-exposed garden cress weighed 32% less than their unfired counterparts.
Scientists suggest that the difference in weight is due to the fact that gamma rays damage the proteins and DNA of plants.
The results of this work suggest that we must either think carefully about the design of Martian greenhouses, or develop plants that are resistant to the dose of radiation received on the Red Planet and do not change their genetic code.
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