Can Martian soil support plant life?


Thanks to Squarespace for sponsoring today’s
video. Many of us have seen the Martian, in my opinion,
a great film about surviving on the Martian surface. One part of the film focused on growing potatoes
using Martian soil, but, how practical is that in reality? Does Martian soil really have the nutrients
needed for plants to grow? And would there be any adverse side effects
from eating produce grown on Mars? As it turns out, Martian soil does in fact
have a lot of the essential nutrients needed for plants to grow, depending on where exactly
you are on Mars. Just like Earth, with some areas that have
nutrient poor soil and some with nutrient rich soil, some parts of Mars would be better
suited for growing plants than others. However, the soil on Mars is more like regolith,
it hasn’t had a history of worms, insect and plants mixed in. In 2016, researchers grew tomato, rye, radish,
pea, leek, spinach, garden rocket, cress, quinoa, and chives in an imitation Martian
soil on Earth, producing only slightly less produce than they would have in Earth soil. Interestingly, they did the same experiment
again with imitation Moon soil, which produced about half the amount of produce, yet these
crops still grew, with only spinach really struggling to perform! However, it should be noted that organic matter
was added to the soil, in this experiment cut up grass, to fertilise the soil, and fluff
it up, allowing water to pass through the soil to the roots. Without that, the plants wouldn’t have lasted
long. Another barrier scientists would have to get
over though is the abundance of heavy metals and most importantly, something called calcium
perchlorate in the Martian soil. Calcium perchlorate is a salt, which – like
heavy metals – is toxic if consumed in large quantities. This perchlorate and metals in the soil would
be absorbed into the plants, not so great for the plants anyway, but humans would then
also absorb it into their system when they eat the plants. But perchlorate isn’t all bad, in fact it
could help humans survive on Mars. For one thing, it sucks water out of the air,
which can then be used as liquid water. It also can give off oxygen, again, another
critical checkbox for survival ticked. So, in short, it seems there are two major
problems to be overcome when growing plants on Mars. First is the need for fertiliser. Going back to the film and book “The Martian”,
Watney overcame this problem by using feces from the toilet as fertiliser. Typically, this is dangerous as feces contain
pathogens, however if the feces have been processed to kill the pathogens, it can then
safely be used as fertiliser. Once production gets underway, you could always
use the compost collected from old plants and food. The second problem is the toxic perchlorates. Well, this has a simpler solution than you
may think. Running water through the soil would rinse
the perchlorates out, and you could then separate the water and perchlorates later so nothing
is wasted. The alternative is to use perchlorate eating
bacteria, which give off oxygen as a by-product. There is a reason why growing plants in future
colonisation efforts is so important, not only does it make the colony self-sufficient
but there is also evidence that fresh foods, such as tomatoes, blueberries and red lettuce
are a good source of antioxidants. Having fresh food like these available in
space could have a positive impact on people’s moods and could also provide some protection
against radiation in space. But without actually doing it, it’s hard
to say how well it will work on Mars itself. Although, it should be said that plants have
been proven to be versatile. They have grown in Mars simulations on Earth,
they’ve even grown on the International Space Station. The key will be whether plants grown on Mars
are safe to eat, or not. And the only definitive way to find out is
to grow some plants on Mars. Thanks again to Squarespace for sponsoring
this video. Squarespace gives people a powerful and beautiful
online platform from which to create your own website. They have bunch of features which you can
integrate seamlessly into your own website, like their audioblock feature to embed your
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is the ability to link various social media platforms to your website and embed videos! So, if you’re looking to build a website,
give it a go! If you use the link squarespace.com/astrum
you can try it out for free and get 10% off your first purchase. Thanks for watching! These Astrum Answers questions are picked
in a fortnightly poll by my Patreons and members. If you’d like to participate and also support
the channel, find the links in the description! And if you have a question you’d like to
see answered, ask in the comments below! All the best, and see you next time.

100 thoughts on “Can Martian soil support plant life?

  1. Quick thought. Growing food on Mars for the first several years makes no sense to me. A plant can only produce a mass of edible if it can consume a mass of consumables to convert to said edible food. So unless those plant consumables can be reliable and safely sourced on Mars, we have to transport them. It woukd be more efficient to transport already grown and processed food products to save weight. Now sure, over time we could amend the soil with waste matter and suppliment with other needed consumables and make growing feasable. But the circle of life as it is, can only be efficient when all 9f the required elements are present. But im not a rocket surgeon so its just a thought.

  2. We can't even live in a biosphere here on earth. Tests found insufficient o2 production, and the people went nuts after a few months.

  3. Soil – probably, but the rest of Mars will not: the dust storms will likely kill anything growing outdoors, and indoors might as well use hydroponics, grow some good green

  4. What about cows, we will need hamburgers on mars? You know what, its not going to work..somebody better build a fast reliable space ship..no way is the 18 month trip viable. Stop wasting our time with fantasy.

  5. There is much talk now of viability of a martian colony, this video details martian soil, elon musk is talking about nuking the ice caps for terraforming purposes, etc etc… How viable is the weak Martian magnetic field to support life? Is everything going to have to be in shielded compounds/underground? Could crops be viable in a terraformed atmosphere to grow outside with the increased solar/galatic radiation levels?

  6. Genetically alter bacteria that eats calcium perchlorate to handle the cold temperatures found on Mars. Launch a pod containing a couple kilos of them and land them in the most temperate area that has the best soils. The bacteria will spread globally releasing oxygen and increasing the weight of the atmosphere.

  7. Where the hell are we getting all the water for the hydroponics comments?
    Soils slow evaporation much better than vats of water, and dont spill or rupture as easily.

  8. Eventually Humans and A.I will have the capability constructing massive Marscrapers(underground skyscraper) and or Domes.

  9. The question is kind a stupid and based on even more stupid movie. The surface of Mars is constantly blasted by radiation, since there’s no ozone layer to protect against UV radiation. Even if someone somehow will manage to grow something it will be radioactive as well.

  10. Would it be possible to introduce large scale perchlorate eating bacteria to begin terraforming mars? We obviously have many, many challenges to overcome before we can honestly hope to colonize, or even send any lengthy missions there. At some point we will have to introduce Earth originating organics to Mars, if we plan to make it at least more hospitable than outer space. Perhaps liberating oxygen from the soil and the poles would be a good start

  11. But what about protein?… I believe war hoppers, crekits, small basic fish, snails, and warms could be good choices for the protein problem, but you would need a lot for one person. You could also grow craw fish, as well as maybe lobster, crab, or something like that.

    Now who would go to Mars, or the moon, or push they're children into going to the moon, and Mars?

    PS. War hoppers are basically Black grass hoppers, but bigger. Females being ruffly 3 to 5 inches, and males being 1 to 2 inches. Also war hopper males are has a beautiful coloring to them, and females are mainly black, yellow, and red. Before you say they're made up I see them every time I go walking at my grandparents house. Tones of them die almost every year by vehicles that goes up, and down the road. Also for insect lovers they are beautiful creatures, and I wish to have one as a pet, and that's how beautiful they are.

  12. Using feces as a fertilizer isn’t that dangerous as long as the humans making the fertilizer are healthy. You can even close it in a sealed tank and let it ferment in the right atmosphere; after a while it will look and smell just like dirt.

  13. '
    earth and mars ground / land are different soils…
    only JPL / NASA / SPACEX can going to the mars and setting touch down…
    no no with ussr russia…
    dont need depend on ussr russia

  14. I’m sure that it can do whatever you say. You would never lie to us or make a theory sound like fact. Is Mars know as the “green” planet?

  15. Can weed be grown on Mars because the police are everywhere round here with their speed cameras and I want to fluff it up BIG time 😁😁😁

  16. Just stumbled upon your channel, subbed and rang the bell so I don't miss any future videos. I'm a new YouTuber myself also covering space topics, but more on the company/financial/legal side of things (I am doing my doctorate in Space Law).

    If you were interested, check me out. I have a series called Starlight where I cover some of the more unknown space companies since it seems these days it's SpaceX all the time. Upcoming series will be covering Space Law. I'd really love to get in contact with you if you have any advice for me Alex. I'm very new to this and I'm sure with continued effort and learning I'll grow, but YouTube can be daunting sometimes, and your support would mean the absolute universe to me. Cheers, and keep up the great work!

  17. Mars Astronauts: Plant potatoes
    PewDiePie(Felix): Changes to gamemode creative and got a lot of potatoes to feed pee pee poo poo army . Yes

  18. Growing food plants on Mars ok first it's waaaaay.too cold . Second there's no water third the planet is constantly bombarded with radiation from the sun and from space because Mars has no magnetosphere

  19. Wow, seriously? You seem to miss the rather important point, that martial soil is highly RADIOACTIVE! Which would mean, that not only your plants will intensively mutate (and most likely die), but also their consumption will bring all these radioactive "nutrients" right into your bloodstream! So, no, thanks!

  20. Man, hope you're well aware of the CHANDRAYAAN-II by ISRO. Would love to watch a vid on the mission once it sends some useful data and information. Plz do it.
    A humble request from an aspiring Indian aeronautical engineer.

  21. It's possible if we build a green house there so no redeation can burn the plants. But only oxygen needed there for plants.

  22. (Chorus)

    Inch by inch, row by row

    Gonna make this garden grow

    Work the soil and the snow

    'Til we've made it fertile ground

    Inch by inch, row by row

    God bless these seeds I sow

    Mars warm them from below

    'Til the rain comes tumblin' down

    Digging frost, crushing stone

    Gonna make this world our own

    Fertilize it with our bones

    Put our life into the land

    Mirrors shine, comets fall

    Mars awakens at our call

    Lots of work, but worth it all

    For a planet made by hand

    (Chorus)

    Awful dry, awful cold

    And the soil is awful old

    Superoxides won't unfold

    'Til you talk to them just right

    But we endure, we persist

    Old Mars just can't resist

    Life works like an alchemist

    With water, air and light

    (Chorus)

  23. Awesome mate! The martian is my favorite movie. Glad it can likely be done!

  24. In The Martian, the book, it says he sprinkled earth dirt samples on the Martian soil so the bacteria from earth would spread through the Martian soil

  25. In the book, Watney uses human waste and samples of Earth soil mixed with Martian soil because, "There are dozens of species of bacteria living in Earth soil, and they're critical to plant growth." And he had to wait a while for the bacteria to spread before he risked planting anything.

  26. Make sure they have a large amount of freeze dried food packets. I dont believe they are going to get anything to grow on Mars. With the current technology it's a one way trip ,with a short life span.

  27. Of course it can grow vegetation, it just needs someone to start it…
    This opens a whole can of worms as to who put vegetation and then human life on earth?

  28. Aren't hydroponics better than using martian soil? You just need water (which is necessary anyway), a sponge of some kind to keep the water for some time and nutrients, which do not weight too much.

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