New extraterrestrial possibilities found in recent study

The possibility of life beyond Earth has delighted, duped and stupefied humanity throughout centuries. As children, we watched movies and read books about aliens that come to destroy or befriend the earth.

Most of us dreamt of becoming astronauts (myself included) so we could be weightless and land on far-off planets to make new one-eyed, slimy green friends. According to a new study published in PLoS ONE Journal, making long-lasting friendships with those aliens might be a possibility.

For the past decade, dreams of colonizing the moon or Mars have dominated science fiction. In an effort to take steps toward this possibility, researchers G.W. Wieger Wamelink, Joep Y. Frissel, Wilfred H. J. Krijnen and M. Rinie Verwoert ran ground-breaking experiments to test lunar and Martian soil for their capabilities to produce crops. Results of this preliminary experiment were staggering.

NASA-grade imitation regolith and unconsolidated rocky material were used to mimic lunar and Martian soils. As a control, nutrient-poor Earth soil was taken from approximately 10 meters beneath the Rhine River. Fourteen species of plants, ranging from tomatoes to field mustard, were planted in multiple small pots of each kind of regolith.

All 840 plants were randomly placed within a greenhouse, ensuring exact conditions for each pot. Plants received approximately 16 hours of sunlight per day at about 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

After 50 days with only demineralized water and no fertilizer, roughly 20 percent of plants survived on lunar soil, 50 percent survived on Earth soil and an astounding 65 percent survived on Martian soil.

Researchers then found the biomass, material from living or recently living organisms, of each species, concluding that 11 out of 14 species had a significantly higher biomass on Martian soil simulant than either Earth or lunar soils, including tomatoes.

Other high-biomass plants, or rather, those that grew best, included wheat, cress, reflexed stonecrop and field mustard. All plants, except “common vetch,” germinated, and some went on to produce seed and even bloom.

Scientists stated that their research merely “shows that it is in principle possible to grow plants in Martian and lunar soil simulants.” Far more research needs to be done on how well regolith simulants represent Martian and lunar soils, and if the higher heavy metal character of these soils would pose a threat to human consumption of crops grown on said soils.

Other factors, such as radiation, distance from the sun and different gravitational pulls were unable to be tested, and therefore no concrete conclusion could be reached.

For now, those with the dream of colonizing our nearest planetary neighbor are only encouraged. In order for true conditions to be tested, these researchers will have to partner with NASA in their quest to send astronauts to the red planet.

If you were expecting affirmative news that our moon or Mars would be colonized within the next 20 years, please direct your complaints and pleads to hurry up at: NASA Headquarters, Suite 5R30 Washington, DC 20546, or at (202) 358-0001. And above all else, please phone your one-eyed, slimy green alien friends to let them know you won’t be coming over anytime soon.