Green Thumbs for the Red Planet Jacque Jackson

Green Thumbs for the
Red Planet
Jacque Jackson
The Vision for Space Exploration
January 2004 - President George W. Bush
outlined an ambitious plan for NASA's
future exploration of the solar system,
including human missions to Mars.
NASA – Human Spaceflight (web article)
Long term establishments would require
It would be desirable to decrease required
Our Proposition
The greenhouse would be pressurized at
the same pressure as the living habitat.
Our Proposition
Pressurized with Martian air (95% CO2)
with some oxygen to allow for plant
Fact or fiction?
Studies do show that elevated levels of CO2
increase plant growth by more than 20% in
some plants.
Gouk, S.S., He, J. and Hew, C.S. 1999. Changes in photosynthetic capability and
carbohydrate production in an epiphytic CAM orchid plantlet exposed to super-elevated
CO2. Environmental and Experimental Botany 41: 219-230.
Tisserat, B. and Vaughn, S.F. 2003. Ultra-high CO2 levels enhance loblolly pine seedling
growth, morphogenesis, and secondary metabolism. HortScience 38: 1083-1085.
Hew, C.S., Hin, S.E., Yong, J.W.H., Gouk, S.S. and Tanaka, M. 1995. In vitro CO2
enrichment of CAM orchid plantlets. Journal of Horticultural Science 70: 721-736.
However, from a botanist’s view, “super-elevated
CO2” means 35,000 ppm, or 3.5%.
Will plants grow in 95% CO2?
Preliminary Results
Previous location – incubation room in the
Widtsoe Building
New Location - roof of the Eyring Science
Center (where the plants can receive natural
– Advantage: more realistic light
– Disadvantage: less controlled environment
Martian agriculture will have a very strong
incentive to be efficient.
For almost any agricultural plant of
interest, at least half the plant is never
Solution: Quinoa
Bolivian grain
 Entire plant—root, stem, and
leaves—are edible and
 Robust plant, accustomed to
low temperatures and
 Has done well through all of
our experimenting.
Solution: Quinoa
Nutritional value – high in
protein and fiber
 Flavor – light, sweet, and
slightly nutty
 Added advantage – also
has medicinal applications
such as skin healing
Plants can grow in Mars-ambient levels of
Quinoa is a good candidate for a Martian
greenhouse in that it is efficient and
Future Research
Test quinoa growth for longer time periods
in 95% CO2
 Effects of Martian levels of sunlight (43%
that of Earth)
 Rate of conversion of CO2 to O2 and its
 Other types of plants that do well in this
Future Research
Make a mixture of air that more closely
approximates that of Mars and test plant
growth in this air mixture
 95+% CO2,
 2.7% N2
 1.8% Ar
 0.13% O2
 0.07% CO
 other negligible amounts
Future Research
Set up an apparatus at the Mars Desert
Research Station to grow quinoa for the
consumption of the rotation crews
Dr. David Allred
 Niki Farnsworth
 Tim O’Connor
 Doug Archer
 Jon and Richard Maginot
 Honors 343R – The Sweet Mars Class
 The Brigham Young University Physics