NASA to send glow-in-the-dark plants to Mars.
May 7, 2001 7:22 PM   Subscribe

NASA to send glow-in-the-dark plants to Mars. While they wait and search for native life form, NASA, in conjunction with Ferl Lab of University of Florida, is sending GM plants that would report back via their glow into the Red Planet. The good doctor has sent his babies into the heavens before.
posted by tamim (4 comments total)
I can't think of a better way to spend 300 million dollars.
posted by Doug at 8:04 PM on May 7, 2001

Okay, two questions. How exactly is the data retrieval to occur? It would seem to me that there are more efficient ways to monitor the plants' reaction to alien soil than making them into glow-in-the-dark silly-putty. And if the experiment is designed to uncover more information concerning the livability of Mars, than why are they using plants that have no natural relation to our lives on Earth?
posted by Oddsea at 9:15 PM on May 7, 2001

Note that this is only a proposal, and would be a small part of that 2007 Mars mission, itself only a proposed mission at this point. Larger purposes it would serve include testing mobile lander technologies.

Oddsea, the point is that this plant could be easily modified to carry a gene; the gene then can be used to activate the glow. This enables us to study the effects of individual aspects of the soil environment by using different marker genes in different parts of the experiment, and monitor them from earth simply by taking a picture. In other words, it cuts the cost of such a mission in half by eliminating the need for a sample return.

Human livability is a long ways away; we're just starting to look at basics like acidity and mineral content. Patience.
posted by dhartung at 8:53 AM on May 8, 2001

The idea of sending foreign cells/dna to Mars is disturbing to me. We are getting a little ahead of ourselves. I don't think we should contaminate the planet with "lifeforms" from earth until we've had a chance to study it in it's pure form more completely.
posted by abosio at 7:54 AM on May 9, 2001

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