If we provide adequate water supply will it be possible to grow plants/seeds/moss/algae (from Earth) on Mars? How different are Mars soil from Earth's soil?


2 Answers 2


Some of the rocks on Mars aren't too bad for growth of plants or bacteria. They contain a considerable amount of clay minerals (about 20%), and several other minerals which are considered as essential and sufficient for bacteria to survive, at least.

Probable chlorinated salts, e.g. perchlorates, which are likely and wide-spread in Martian soil, don't favour plant growth, but there are also some soils on Earth containing perchlorates. Some plants, and some bacteria can cope with a certain concentration of perchlorates. But it would certainly be better to clean Martian soil from perchlorates before trying to grow plants on it.

Basaltic rocks are wide-spread on Mars. They need some weathering to be suitable for growth of plants.

Solar energetic particles, and galactic cosmic rays are more abundant on Mars than on Earth. That's not optimal for plants, but probably just acceptable. A severe problem is high ultra violet radiation due to a missing ozone layer on Mars. Plants wouldn't survive this uv level without shielding. Hence at least a protection by glass or something similar would be needed.

Carbon dioxide for the respiration of plants is present on Mars, but the atmospheric pressure is too low for water to stay liquid over a sufficiently long period. Hence a pressurized containment would be needed.

Btw.: There is permafrost in some regions on Mars; you just need to warm it, and keep it confined, to get water.

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    $\begingroup$ Plants don't respirate using carbon dioxide. They photosynthesize with it; they also respirate, for which they need oxygen. $\endgroup$
    – cpast
    Commented Jan 9, 2015 at 7:12

How different are Mars soil from Earth's soil?

Mars has no soil.

Soil has an organic component, which (so far as we know) is lacking in Mars regolith. Actually, the Viking probes may have found signs of organic compounds in the Martian soil, but even until today the results of the experiment are in dispute. Interestingly all Martian landers since, with the notable exception of Phoenix and Curiosity, have been designed to not search for organics.

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    $\begingroup$ "Mars has no soil" is the correct answer. I pity the poor Mars One volunteers who find out all their plants are dying, and hence so are they. (Actually, I don't pity them that much. As far as I can tell, Mars One is a complete scam that will never get off them ground.) $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 25, 2014 at 17:57
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidHammen Considering Mars One is working with SpaceX and Lockheed Martin, I am somewhat skeptical of your claim that they are a scam. $\endgroup$
    – called2voyage
    Commented Apr 25, 2014 at 20:41
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    $\begingroup$ @called2voyage - It's a good scam. A really bad scam goes nowhere. You can't pull the wool over people's eyes with just words and pretty fake pictures (but that did work quite well for Mars One for a while). You have to make it look like the snake oil you are selling actually works to make a really good scam. The amount of nonsense from Mars One is quite astounding. The number of people who have swallowed that nonsense hook, line, and sinker, is even more astounding. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 26, 2014 at 23:17
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    $\begingroup$ MarsOne stated in their public announcements that they intended to use SpaceX hardware. At the time, however, SpaceX denied having any kind of business connection with MarsOne. This was several months ago. Has something changed since? $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 30, 2014 at 16:05
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    $\begingroup$ MarsOne has made extremely improbable claims. They claim that they're going to get by with sending people to mars without recycling water, for example. Which means several tons per person of water that they really don't need to carry, in lieu of several dozen kilograms of equipment and several hundred kilograms of water. There are good reasons to carry that much water, but no good reasons to not carry the recycling gear and a few dozen liters less. $\endgroup$
    – aramis
    Commented May 2, 2014 at 9:14

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