Last updated July 28, 2017 at 1:30 pm
Recent research suggests Martian soil probably won’t be a nurturing environment for any living thing.
Picture yourself waking up on Mars in the somewhat-near future. You feel great, because you’ve had an extra 37 minutes of sleep, and you literally bounce out of bed. As you look out across the rocky red surface, you reflect on the year 2017, when you found out that Martian soil is probably pretty deadly to living things. That was a bummer. But then in the year 2018 you figured out how to fix this and grow plants! Thanks to your brilliance, humanity’s Mars colony is flourishing. Have a great day you legend!
Back here on present-day Earth, we’re approaching a decade of knowing that a type of nasty chemical compounds called percholates are abundant on the surface of Mars. But we’ve only just figured out how much trouble they’ll cause for anything that wants to stay alive in the soil.
Scientists from the University of Edinburgh have just tested the types of percholates present with the conditions present on mars’ surface. They blasted magnesium percholate with UV radiation, which unsurprisingly made them bacteriocidal. The bacteria they tested it on only survived for a few minutes. Then they pointed out that some other components of the soil – iron oxide and hydrogen peroxide – probably won’t play nicely with percholates either. They’ll probably cause a 10.8-fold increase in cell death.
So basically it’s really hard for any bacterial life to survive on and in Mars soil, because if one thing doesn’t kill you, the next thing probably will.
We can’t talk about growing things in Martian soil without referencing the movie The Martian – thank goodness we have this lovely video about the science behind the movie we can show you!