|Picture Scramble # 116
||12 June 2001
Jellyplants on Mars
The first colonists on Mars probably won't
be humans. More likely, they'll be plants. And the prototypes
of these leafy pioneers are under development right now.
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As part of a proposed mission that could put plants on Mars
as soon as 2007, University of Florida professor Rob Ferl is
bioengineering tiny mustard plants. He's not altering these
plants so that they can adapt more easily to Martian
conditions. Instead, he's adding reporter genes: part plant,
part glowing jellyfish -- so that these diminutive explorers can
send messages back to Earth about how they are faring on
The plants can be genetically wired to glow with a soft
green aura when they encounter problems.
Within a garden grouping, some plants could report
(by glowing) low oxygen levels, while others
might signal low water or, say, the wrong mix of
nutrients in the soil.
Courtesy NASA/Rob Ferl and the University of Florida.
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