Scientists discover moss can grow on Mars

The discovery of a desert moss, Syntrichia caninervis, found in Antarctica, has sparked interest in its potential for colonizing Mars due to its ability to survive extreme conditions similar to those on the Martian surface. This moss is known for its resilience to drought conditions, but recent tests by the Chinese Academy of Sciences have shown that it can also withstand temperatures as low as -196°C and levels of gamma radiation comparable to those found on Mars.

This finding suggests that Syntrichia caninervis could be a promising candidate for pioneer plants in colonizing extraterrestrial environments, paving the way for building biologically sustainable human habitats beyond Earth. The ambition to establish a permanent human colony on Mars is already underway, with Elon Musk’s SpaceX being one of the key players in this endeavor.

However, recent studies have raised concerns about the feasibility of such a mission. For instance, long-duration space travel could have severe effects on astronauts’ kidneys, potentially requiring the use of dialysis machines during travel. Once on Mars, other challenges such as increased space radiation, decreased gravity, and limited food and water supplies could make long-term living there a significant challenge.

Growing plant life, like Syntrichia caninervis, could help overcome at least one of these barriers. While there is still much work to be done to create self-sufficient habitats on other planets, the potential of this moss as a pioneer plant for growth on Mars is significant. Future studies may involve bringing Syntrichia caninervis to Mars or the Moon to further test the possibility of plant colonization and growth in outer space. The research on this topic was published in the journal The Innovation on 30 June under the title ‘The extremotolerant desert moss Syntrichia caninervis is a promising pioneer plant for colonising extraterrestrial environments’.

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