Within its pores, soil stores about 0.01% of all the water on Earth. But what kind of storage capacity does soil have on Mars? We might be close to finding out.
Scientists are closer than ever to finding out how to get humans living on Mars. The only way to reach that level, however, is to find a way to grow and incubate plants in the environment.
According to Quartz, Mars soil is quite difficult to use for plants because it’s hard, volcanic, and covered in various chemicals that could jeopardize plant life. Plants need soft soil that contains microbes, which are on Earth (and not on Mars).
But scientists and researchers from the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands have found ways to grow tomatoes, radishes, rye, and more in Mars-like soil. The big breakthrough, however, was the fact that living organisms were able to be birthed and survive in this foreign soil.
Earthworms are crucial to a healthy ecosystem because they are essentially super-composters. They eat dead plants and release productive soil through their feces.
“Clearly, the manure stimulated [plant] growth,” said Wieger Wamelink, biologist and researcher who has been working on growing plants in Mars 1A soil since 2013. “However, the best surprise came at the end of the experiment when we found two young worms in the Mars soil simulant.”
Though scientists are realistic and believe there is still a long way to go before the real Mars environment could support earthworms or other living organisms, this discovery is certainly a step in the right direction.
“The positive effect of adding manure was not unexpected,” added Wamelink, “but we were surprised that it makes Mars soil simulant outperform Earth silver sand.”
The next goal is to have an organized molecular analysis of dirt and soil from different areas of Mars, perhaps even collected by humans.