Saturday 20 July 2019

Students look at growing plants on Mars surface

Fingal students impress at BT Young Scientist exhibition

Sometimes the ambitions of a Young Scientist project stretch beyond the bounds of Earth and into the cosmos.

That is the case with one project by a pair of students from Portmarnock Community School, who aimed their sights on Mars.

Aaron Cullen and Adam Doyle were inspired by a scientist from NASA to investigate growing plants on Mars.

So how do you go about doing that from Portmarnock? Well the boys reproduced what we know about Mars soil and the planet's atmosphere to reproduce those conditions inside a conical flask where they attempted to grow garden cress.

They attempted to grow the plant in both Earth and Mars atmospheres and while the Mars atmosphere was certainly less efficient, there was still some growth observed, something the students assumed would be impossible before experimenting.

Even more significantly, the boys found with the addition of just a small amount of organic material to the soil, it's productivity improved significantly, even under a Mars atmosphere.

The experiment, which also required the addition of liquid water, holds out real hope of growing plants on Mars in the future although the students acknowledge it will take time to put enough organic material in the soil to make it suitable for plant growth. Is there life on Mars? There could be soon.

Fingal Independent