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Why Cosmic Radiation Could Foil Plans for Farming on Mars

Why Cosmic Radiation Could Foil Plans for Farming on Mars, New research suggests gamma rays stunt plant growth. Inside Science , August 20, 2021 – Karen Kwon,   Friday, August 20, 2021 –  — What would it take for humans to live on Mars? The first step is to successfully get people to the red planet, of course. Once there, the astronauts would face a task that could be even more difficult: figuring out how to survive in an environment that is vastly different from Earth’s. A new study demonstrates one of the challenges — Earth’s plants don’t grow as well when exposed to the level of radiation expected on Mars.


Wieger Wamelink, an ecologist at Wageningen University in the Netherlands who describes himself as a space farmer, has been frustrated by sci-fi depictions of growing plants on Mars. “What you often see is that they do it in a greenhouse,” he said, “but that doesn’t block the cosmic radiation,” which consists of high-energy particles that may alter the plants’ DNA. Mars lacks the same degree of protection from cosmic radiation that the Earth’s atmosphere and magnetic field provide. To prove his suspicion that cosmic radiation could be dangerous to plants, Wamelink decided to test the hypothesis himself.

First, Wamelink and his team had to recreate the cosmic radiation. The team settled on using gamma rays generated by radioactive cobalt, even though the actual cosmic radiation that bombards Mars’ surface consists of various types of radiation, including alpha and beta particles……………..


 Four weeks after germination, the scientists compared the two groups and saw that the leaves of the group exposed to gamma rays had abnormal shapes and colors. The weights of the plants also differed; the rye plants in the gamma-ray group weighed 48% less than the regular group, and the weight of the garden cress exposed to gamma rays was 32% lower than their unblasted counterparts. Wamelink suspects the weight difference is due to the gamma rays damaging the plants’ proteins and DNA. The results were published in the journal Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Sciences this month……………. http://insidescience.org/news/why-cosmic-radiation-could-foil-plans-farming-mars

August 21, 2021 - Posted by | EUROPE, space travel

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