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Airdate: Jun 19, 2008
Scientist: Lynn Rothschild

Astrobiology - Moving to Mars

Astrobiology - Moving to Mars
If human beings ever live on Mars, the first colonists on the Red Planet will likely be farmers.

Transcript:
Astrobiology - Moving to Mars

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Will human beings ever live on Mars? If that should come to pass, scientists are telling us that the first settlers on the red planet will have to be farmers. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.

"If humans are someday to colonize Mars, humans can't just go by themselves."

Lynn Rothschild is an astrobiologist with NASA -- a scientist who studies biological life in the universe. She says that the first humans to go to Mars will have to take plants along with them.

"When astronauts go to the moon, you can pack half a dozen peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. You can't do that if you go to Mars. It's a two-year round trip at the best. And so the only way to produce the food to eat and so on is really to actually have living organisms along on the journey. And for humans to colonize Mars and to establish some sort of presence, they're going to have to purposely seed Mars with microbes or with plants, what some people call terraforming Mars with Earth life. "

Deciding which samples of earthly life to take to Mars may be a bit like choosing passengers for Noah's ark.

"When we go to Mars we may not have to bring our whole ecology. But there will have to be some kind of representative community that will create an ecosystem that's able to continue producing things that we need to eat physically and psychologically. There are people who work on growing plants for astronauts and one of the things that they grow are strawberries. People seem to psychologically need to eat more than just a pill with a lot of vitamins."

Although Mars is further away from the Sun than the Earth is, its atmosphere doesn't shield the planet from the sun's ultraviolet rays. Therefore, any plants that are seeded on Mars will have to able to withstand high levels of ultraviolet radiation.

To hear about our new CD, please visit pulseplanet.com. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.