Nasa wants to build a greenhouse on Mars in 2021
Nasa wants to build a greenhouse on Mars in 2021Nasa

Nasa has announced plans to grow plants on Mars by 2021 after the next rover mission launches and is to send plants to the moon for the first ever life sciences experiment on another planet.

Nasa experts are working through 58 proposals for instruments aboard the next Mars rover. One proposal, from Ames Research Center, suggests sending plant life into space to explore how seedlings, which are as sensitive as humans to environmental change, can fare on another planet.

The idea would be to convert a clear CubeSat box into a greenhouse and fill it with 200 Arabidopsis plant seeds and air from Earth. The box would stay aboard the Mars rover after landing and be watered by the rover.

Nasa is also launching the first step towards establishing human life on another planet as part of the Lunar Plant Experiment (LPX).

Plants will be sent to the moon aboard private spacecraft sent by the top contenders for the Google Lunar XPrize competition to make a soft moon landing in 2015.

Five companies have until the end of 2015 to build a robot that can land on the surface of the moon and travel 500 metres above, below or on the lunar surface.

The robot has to have an imaging system good enough to send back two "mooncasts" of information and video to earth.

Nasa wants to send a 1kg box to the moon carrying seeds for Arabidopsis, basil, and turnips. The container will automatically water itself and contain enough air for the duration of the experiment.

The seedlings would be monitored and photographed at intervals for 5-10 days and will be germinated with natural sunlight on the moon.

"This will be the first life sciences experiment on another world and an important first step in the utilisation of plants for human life support," said Nasa.

"Thriving plants are needed for life support for colonists. And plants provide psychological comfort, as the popularity of the greenhouses in Antarctica and on the Space Station show."