Can Martian soil support plant life?

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Mars has a lot of the nutrients needed for plants to grow, but it also has some added extras, including toxic perchlorates. How will future missions overcome these challenges?
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Image Credits: NASA/20th Century Fox/Wageningen University
Thumbnail Credit: Samuel van der Hoeven

  1. James Mitchell

    Quinoa is pronounced KEEN-wah, not kwi-NO-uh

  2. TotalRookie_LV

    So, the collective mind of plants made us, so we could colonise other worlds for them. XD
    Now, on more serious note. While our faeces do contain pathogens, isn’t it less harmful to the person, from which those pathogens originated?

  3. General Popcorn

    The perchlorates would be a massive problem.

  4. zaini ikhwan

    Maybe we could just release ton of cockroaches and let they die and become compost on mars…… Wait, that maybe will not turn out well…..

  5. Simon Sozzi

    Only Besos and his rich friends are going to Mars.

  6. Mike Cuddihey

    Yeah plants love -275 degrees f at night

  7. D R

    You don’t need dirt to grow plants. Hydroponics media are very light and could be brought along. Dirt would be for mass migrations of people hundreds of years from now

  8. Tom Young

    I understand how precious ever bit of space is on a probe shot into space, but maybe it’s time to do more than just take pictures and measure the dirt. Include some type of planting mechanism and target one of the more ‘fertile’ areas. Even if it’s not edible plants. If any degree of success, seems it would start a cycle that could only help future possible colonies.

  9. Tom Everton

    Somebody said mars is covered in iron oxide, if true would that mean that it used to have oxygen at one point or have I misunderstood???

  10. Tyg Rahof

    So; the answer is no.

  11. Dauminator63

    Can you imagine that if humans have evolved so much that our next step in evolution is to give life to the rest of the solar system then galaxy? :0

  12. Peter Presutti

    plants can not grow on Mars we are not going live on Mars to much radiation pure fantasy

  13. Electromagnetic Wave Society

    Watch out for the security system on Mars…

  14. Frank Dalla

    After about a week, the joy of leaving earth might make anyone who goes to Mars regret that they believed in the fantasy of space travel. Its going to be one of the most horrible expieriences humans have ever attempted to endure. And might very well end in death for those that try it.

  15. Blan Morrison

    This is a fascinating video! I’ve seen this topic briefly discussed before, but I’ve never seen with so much detail, addressing both the problems and possible solutions. Thank you!
    P.S. Quinoa is pronounced “keen-wa,”not “qui-no-uh.”

  16. garcemac

    tl;dr: No. No, it can’t

  17. madison55

    I think we should leave Mars alone.

  18. William Productions

    I was just watching Terraforming Mars until this notification popped up. 😳

  19. Şahin yaşar

    Can Venus soil support plant life?

  20. HSW 53

    Surviving Mars basically

  21. Bijan Ajamlou

    Please make a video on how we can get all material needed for a initial colinization into space and then to mars. That smal dome/tube garden would require material to be built.

  22. RedLikeWater

    This fool needs to discovery the reality of EU and the Thunderbolts project. He’s just slinging junk science. So much so, he just made a 5 minute video that culminated in the admission that these junk scientists don’t know if anything will actually grow on mars. See what an EU scientist would say.

  23. Peter Flynn

    its pronounced Keen-wah

  24. Maruf Mostafa

    what about Titan? can we live on it?

  25. Touch Bionics

    Actually poop is not that dangerous on Earth bcz we have self sustained eco system which keeps the growth of certain pathogens under control.
    Animals poop on the ground all the time and people used to too, even now our waste goes back into the soil and water.
    But we do have bacteria and mould in the soil which can break down our waste and eat our own pathogens .
    When we go to Mars , after doing research and checking if there is any bacteria there , we can bring our own for the soil. Without bacteria there will be no decomposition of dead plants and animals, you won’t be able to make compost and any dead organic tissue will just pile up as garbage and create pollution like we have with plastic on Earth

  26. Science Junkie 5 by 5

    Popeye would be able to jump into a Martian orbit if spinach was easy to grow there.

  27. Eric Gauthier

    Thank you again.

  28. polentusmax

    Water vapour in mars is like helium on earth, it goes out of orbit, so no, it cant be terraformed

  29. ColecoKid

    Life finds a way.
    edit: speaking of radiation, isn’t Martian soil slightly radioactive as well? It’s had virtually no atmosphere for millennia to protect it from UV radiation, solar wind and cosmic rays.

  30. Nina Duval

    Love you Alex.

  31. Mr. Grant

    Could a weed grow that would suffice as the fertilizer/fodder?

  32. Pali May

    The soil test was pointless adding organic matter. It gives no indication how the soil alone would perform.

  33. Dave Cue

    The answer is yes but with fertilizer. Saved you 6 minutes.

  34. Breambo

    The soil on Mars contains 60 times the sulphur that we have in our soil. The moment you add water it turns to sulphuric acid.

  35. The Hiking gamer

    According to “surviving Mars”, it can not….

  36. Karl Themel

    A lot of crop plants (like forest trees) need symbiotic mycorrhizae-type fungi to help them draw moisture and minerals from the soil. A problem with overfertilized soil is the lack of these fungi. Probably processed feces (though important) would not suffice for growing potatoes effectively. In the experiment, the grass is a little defined addition to the substrate and could easily contain some of the fungi. Most likely a Martian farmer will need a sample from terrestrial soil as an inoculum for microorganisms in addition to processed feces and seed potatoes.

  37. Sagar Sagar

    First breath in open environment on mars would be achievement

  38. Peter Montagnon

    Plants have been proven very hardy!!

  39. Kris Grauel

    I can hardly wait for us to grow the first plants on Mars, and the moon.

  40. Dirkardo StEvergreen

    1:11 pretty sure it’s pronounced “kin-wah”

  41. stcredzero

    Dietary antioxidants don’t do very much.

  42. A Canner

    Quinoa is pronounced “keenwa”, otherwise love the vid.

  43. Ghazala Bibi

    I commend astrum for putting in the amount effort in making video clip BUT it’s load of farce. There is no chance even to the slightest to start assuming you can grow crops on Mars let alone getting which is never ever going to happen. Mars atmosphere is not strong all to neutralise constant radiation bombardment. The perchlorates within Mars soil is so deadly it irriversible. And the is no weather pattern in Mars because it’s always killingly cold

  44. papafordtrucCPO

    I love your videos!! Keep them up!!

  45. Lostgears


  46. Eric Bizzell

    What about the
    nitrogen? No nitrogen or nitrogen fixing bacteria also means no plants.

  47. Shane

    Wouldn’t the surface soil be too radioactive because of marses lack of a magnetosphere and atmosphere

  48. Jarrold Bates

    Can’t grow crops on mars unless organic material is added. Good luck with that.

  49. moviemaker2011z

    To take from film theory, just wash the dirt.

  50. S A

    Really it’s not hard, you just have to have the steps fr. From reading papers online its easy enough. You’d still need to take a lot of matter for a grow in space… but it’s an exponential equation for producing more soil. Composting would allow for more soil to be generated from waste.
    Idk why we haven’t designed a habitat for the moon yet for some of this.

  51. Warwagon

    Questioning the part about using poop after removing the “Pathogens”. In Iowa, they pump the poop out the hog units directly into a giant tanker and go from there and spray in on the fields.

  52. IbadassI

    Did he just say “C U Next Time” at the end of the video?
    Those initials though, rude, LOL

  53. Rursus

    Calcium perchlorate is not pronounced /kalsyem p-klaw-rate/ but /kalsyem per-klaw-rate/.

  54. Sam Host

    Very interesting stuff. Thanks Astrum

  55. Dennis Vance

    We need a robotic plant growing experiment on Mars: Future Agriculture Research Mars Experimentation Robot (FARMER) that can sow and reap, then Evaluate, Analyze & Test (EAT) Mars-grown produce for its potential use in Humans On Mars Extended Stay Technology Experiment And Development Stations (HOMESTEADS).

  56. DontTouchMeImCrazy

    dude how could they have plant life without bees first?

  57. weltraum ameisenbaer

    unfortunately, until we get the heavy metal problem solved its still not a viable option for a colony

  58. Tim Marshall

    More like this please.😀

  59. TheDroidBay

    The use of the word fluff pleased me greatly

  60. Drake Kay

    I have three words for you. Ferns, Clovers, Grasses… Just send a seed packet to burst in the atmosphere and leave it…..

  61. TheBritishJackalope

    The biggest problem with perchlorates is the it’s actually toxic to breath, let alone eat. And any perchlorates that make it I to the habitable compartments are impossible to filter out of the air, although research is looking into it.

  62. Michael Rice

    The biggest problem I see with Mars is that there really isn’t much of an energy budget, and there are few ways to improve it. It gets half the solar energy of Earth so solar won’t produce a lot of energy, but with the thin atmosphere, wind would be even worse. Without an oxygen atmosphere you can’t burn anything without reducing what you have to breathe, assuming you did find something to burn. And without bodies of water, we can’t use hydroelectric. And it’s not like we can use animal power like we have here for millennia. Nuclear batteries have to come from Earth, don’t produce THAT much power, and don’t last forever. (Plus whatever safety concerns you have with plutonium power sources.) It’s hard to see how colonization could ever become self-sustaining with those limitations. It would be cool, but….

  63. chrixthegreat

    Mars doesn’t have soil. It has dirt. Difference is that soil is a complex network of dirt, bacteria, molds, fungi, and microanimals filling an entire probiotic ecosystem. Dirt is just the non-living component of soil. Now semantics aside, if one can get that ecosystem to mars, it will do all the work for you to get the heavy metals and perchlorates out of the dirt and to transform it into soil. Or what would work better is to send healthy soil to mars and add martian dirt to it only as fast as that ecosystem can convert it, thus increasing your available soil.

  64. WS A

    Key word “Imitation”

  65. MegaOwn

    You ask the right questions

  66. Nox

    Wonderful and informative as always!
    If anyone who hasn’t read or watched The Martian as the opportunity, I highly recommend you do so. While I personally think the book is better, both are very well done! It’s also great if you are a sci fi lover 😊

  67. Anonymous Killer

    Awesome thanks for uploading

  68. crazypolite

    I don’t even need to watch this.. Matt Damon already did it.. duh

  69. Stephen Gillie

    Are there any projects planning to send a hydroponics bot to Mars?

  70. Tom Mallard

    Plants can handle space dust better than people, the grains so small lunar dust levitates at 20,000-grains/cc near the surface comes into the airlock with you. So small like Salton Sea can enter the blood from the lungs, is toxic and not eroded so gnarly grains.
    Working on it …

  71. Eric Anderson

    Trace nutrients come from the soil, along with water. Most of the biomass comes from carbon dioxide in the air.
    One thing nobody ever talks about is the sheer horror of spending you life in such a place, with no hope of escape.

  72. Proteus Augustus

    They’ll just ship fertilizer on a prep trip before we get there.

  73. cyanidejunkie

    You want to grow? You want to call Styxhexenhammer666.

  74. Spyrit2011

    hydroponics and aeroponics would be more efficient.

  75. PretFurnDIY

    You sir sounds like your smiling while talking. Good content man

  76. Patriot Astronomer67

    Awesome post Astrum! I love the way you SCIENCE THE S#*T out of this!

  77. The LoneWolf

    Heavy metals
    Me: Mettalica!!!

  78. Eric Anderson

    living on “healthy vegetables” would NOT have a positive effect on my mood. I’d end up eating the other astronauts.

  79. Wolpertinger

    The content of this channel is almost out of this world.
    Very informative and interesting. 🌎👍🤖

  80. Erixoz

    You need light, water, and CO2 to grow plants (see hydroponics), not soil.

  81. Lakario Davis

    awesome. how hard would it be to ship some dried grass clippings with some food and the first mars habitat arrivals? and they can build and reuse that same soil and keep the clippings coming from the new veggies they grow. while adding in a little more unprocessed regolith along the way to make even nutritious soil.

  82. RFC Lee

    Hi astrum,
    This interest’s me a lot, what do I study?

  83. LastStand Drum and Bass

    Love your vids. Big up

  84. Adam Bond

    Seems like hydroponics may be easier.

  85. Queen

    How do you put the perchlorate eating bacteria on mars?

  86. ThomasGrillo

    This is very interesting. I had no idea these types of soils could be used. Thanks for the video.

  87. russell knight

    Well done, a question I have asked myself more than once.

  88. Joker Ace

    Quickly getting fixed Nitrogen into the Martian soil is probably the main issue for growing plants.

  89. Marcos Ramos

    Excelent documentary keep up the good work, Mars is the dream of this century

  90. Peter Lewis

    Perchlorate, eh? Mmmm, yummy! Faeces? Not so much. Nice vid

  91. Ivor Biggun

    Another fascinating film. Thanks, Alex.

  92. 3 nitrotulol

    Also, Perchlorates are a great oxidizer, used in SRBs.

  93. Sam Mencia

    Growing spinach is a struggle on this planet, too.

  94. Nut Demon

    You said growing plants could protect against radiation in space? How? Curious :)

  95. Peter Houle

    don’t worry, spinach, it happens to all of us at some point

  96. Abhijit Dhar

    Once again very informative… hat’s off to Astrum 👌❤

  97. Izaya Kross

    No Spinach? [Popeye Intensifies]

  98. Oveida Sinclair

    Make sure you use Brondo, it has what plants crave. Also corn, corn produces more oxygen than full grown trees, the other issue is to try and gin up a thicker atmosphere in order to trap the oxygen and warm up the planet, plus construct an artificial solar radiation filter to act as a artificial magnetic field, other wise Mars can only sustain a small number of humans and they’ll be stuck under ground due to the intense solar radiation coming from the sun.

  99. PollieBear

    Having scurvy in space can be bad for you.

  100. The Exoplanets Channel

    What a great movie. Can’t wait for the release of Ad Astra !

Comments are closed.