Colonization of Mars: Can This Moss Make The Planet Habitable?

Colonization of Mars: Can This Moss Make The Planet Habitable?

It is not afraid of cold, heat, or radiation. It is an ordinary moss but could contain enormous potential to conquer other planets.

A study published in the journal "Science Direct" found that the moss Syntrichia caninervis can withstand extremely high and low temperatures and even survive at -80°C. It grows in the world's driest and most extreme regions, including the Gurbantunggut and Tengger deserts in China, the Mojave Desert in the United States, and the mountainous areas of the Pamir, Tibet, and even Antarctica.

By exposing this moss to extreme temperatures and stress, scientists theorized that the moss's surprising survival rate could open up the possibility of its use in space programs, as it can serve to produce oxygen, and fertile soil, and create a new habitable environment for human settlement.

Syntrichia caninervis has a unique ability to survive stressful situations and regenerate instantly. To study this moss's tolerance to extreme desiccation, the scientists subjected it to an air-drying regimen in the lab. "Syntrichia caninervis plants were extremely drought-resistant, as demonstrated by their ability to undergo complete dehydration and recover very quickly," they wrote in the report. In addition, Syntrichia caninervis has a remarkable resistance to radiation, which is present on Mars and other planets. It can easily survive doses of radiation that are lethal to humans.

© Syntrichia caninervis - Wikipedia

The secret to this moss's vitality lies in the plant's structure. The densely coiled leaves help retain valuable moisture, and special projections on the cells, called papillae, act like miniature lenses, focusing sunlight and protecting chloroplasts from damage.

The survival mechanism of the moss when there is a lack of water is also interesting. When dehydrated, the cells of Syntrichia caninervis accumulate special sugars and proteins that protect the cellular structures from destruction. A powerful antioxidant system also neutralizes the effects of free radicals formed under the influence of radiation.

"Looking ahead, we hope that this promising moss could be taken to Mars or the Moon to further test colonization and plant growth in space," the scientists concluded in their study report.