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Space Science

NASA Wants To Invade Mars With Glowing JellyPlants 98

namespan writes: "NASA and university researchers are looking into creating plants that emit a jellyfish-like glow as a signal of trouble, say, not enough water or oxygen or nutrients in the soil, say. The idea: send them to Mars and have them glow feedback at us about how they're faring on the red planet. They will, of course, have to compete with the radio-controlled plants mentined in an earlier slashdot story. And the Triffids." We've done several stories on glowing plants and animals in the past, but this seems to be a bit more useful and detailed.
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NASA Wants To Invade Mars With Glowing JellyPlants

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Is there any place I can buy these genetically altered seeds? I know it might be kind of tacky, but I want to set up a miniature garden in my room with these things. That way, I won't need my nightlight to scare the monsters away from underneath my bed.....
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 01, 2001 @09:52AM (#183157)
    ...and a few months later they have you using PLANTS. Goddamn.
    Disgruntled NASA engineer.
  • It is a really stupid idea to send earth life, especially engineered life, to other planets without fully investigating them first. Look what happens on earth when life forms are placed in unnatural habitats: rabbits in australia, zebra mussels in the great lakes, killer bees in the southern US. Mars is far more of an unknown, and we should not do anything that even has the possibility for unintended consequences until we know what we are dealing with.

    Surely there's a better way to detect conditions on mars without throwing plants at it. How about another robot lander (one that works) built with our modern knowledge of biochemisty?

    It's been suggested that if we ever find that another planet has life on it, leave that planet alone and forget about it. I think that's a little extreme, but we should be very, very careful about cross-contamination, and launching plants modified with our somewhat primitive genetic tools into an unknown environment is going too far.

    1. The launch vehicle will explode
    2. It'll never work
    3. The probe'll crash
    4. It'll never work
    5. It'll never work
    6. The plants will rebel and form a colony on the moon
    7. Welsh sheep would be more effective
    8. And, above all, it'll never work.

    Seriously, they can barely =GET= to Mars, these days. What is the total? Of 8 probes launched, that I can think of, 1 went silent, 1 crashed & burned, 1 suffered a BSOD after it landed, 1 had an air-bag that just wouldn't deflate (Princess Diana could have done with one of those), 2 had equiptment that was essentially useless, leaving 2 that could do actual mission work to completion. (The rover mission, with air-bag, eventually worked, but they burned a lot of valuable mission time on that one.)

    25% failure rates are a tad high, when you're trying to colonise a planet with enough glowing plants to detect, let alone use as monitoring devices.

    If we're going to start doing SERIOUS space missions, let's do this right. First, round up all of NASAs managerial staff and drop them into thoe methane deposits they found off the east coast. They'll feel quite at home. At least, until the oxygen starts to react.

    Once the deadwood is removed, replace those pathetic excuses for Operating Systems, and install *BSD and Linux. For chrissakes, they're using WINDOWS for virtually everything! It's no wonder everything they make blows up or cracks up.

    Second, someone get rid of that ISS/IASS/whatever they're calling it, this week. No robot arm (until that's fixed!), serious equiptment failures, they've not installed the docking port yet, and the place is being used more by tourists than scientists. And they've not even got 1/10th of the thing BUILT yet! And once they have, there's a high liklihood of it being smashed to bits by space junk and/or meteoroids, before it's even used.

    Third, rockets are WAY too inefficient, and WAY too unreliable. Don't tell me that the world's brightest can't build a simple firework that DOESN'T explode! I mean, this isn't rocket science! :)

    Lastly, if the boss isn't confident enough to fly on one of these rockets, who is he to demand that genetically-modified plant slaves go instead?

  • They could shoot up a clapper light to detect sound....

    (ducking from rotten fruit being hurled at me)


  • the aliens will eat the damn jellyfish before they do anything useful. Unless they make the jellyfish glow when they are being eaten :)
  • Yeah, my firewall is pretty 'leet sometimes.

    I knew this guy who tried to hack it, and it took the whole internet down when he did so! He could not ping ANYONE when he took it down!
  • Seriously: with Earth, there is a significant pre-existing ecosystem we have to respect lest we screw up humanity's only (at the moment) life support system. With all other planets (and moons, and asteroids) in our solar system, there is not, thus we are free to mess with them as we please.

    To the best of our knowledge there is no life in any of the other planets/moons. There MAY be life on mars (barely eeking out an existance however) and if so is it within our right to modify the planet and destroy life on a global (mars) scale?

    We have not to this point conclusivly proven that there is no life on mars, or that there ever was.. The jury is still out on this, we just don't have enough data do decide if there is life elsewhere in the solar system. (Yet.)
  • > Come on, try to hack my 31337 firewall!

    Dude, your firewall SUCKS! Not only do you have telnet open on it and allowing root access, which is pretty bad, but unfortunetly for YOU you seem to have used the exact same root password as I did!

    If you are reading this message you've obviously rebuilt it already. Try not to boast so much next time or I'll rm -rf / your machine again!!! Ph33r!

    Hmm, I seem to be having some kind of weird filesystem error, luckily for you, so I have to go. Cheers!

  • God. I bought that trilogy and it is the most boring thing I have ever read in my life. Or tried to - I'm in the middle of the second one and I just let it go. anyone who wants the trilogy for cheap can contact me.

    I like Science Fiction, but not when the science involved is sociology and political science. There are vast open spaces in these books with absolutely no plot! Just descriptions and analysis.

    I have to admit he has some nice ideas in it, but you could compress the three volumes into 1 if you just kept the plot in and cut out most (not all) of the really useless and meaningless background. Yes, SOME of it is neccesary, but a lot of it adds absolutely nothing to the plot.

  • > rabbits in australia, zebra mussels in the
    > great lakes, killer bees in the southern US.

    Besides animals, look at Kudzu.

    ...More Powerful than Otto Preminger...
  • "What the fuck's a triffid? []"

    ...More Powerful than Otto Preminger...
  • Human anatomy can last more than long enough to get to mars, in no gravity. However, to get to mars, we'd be using thrust, which would provide some gravity, and give the mars travellers a better medical condition to live in.

    Mars has more gravity than the moon, so you're better off there also. Probably enough gravity on mars to keep people functioning properly for life, though that hasn't really been tested yet.

    Mars is a good target for long term settlement because of the higher gravity. Given our current technology, it's the best choice for this reason (venus turns into an instantly better option the day we figure out how to make it cooler, or to build habitats that can take the heat with a very near 0 failure rate). There are also a lot more exploitable mineral resources on mars/venus than on the moon.
  • Not that it's so useful now.
  • "Houston ... fzzzp ... we have landed on Mars ... fzzp ... in the name of the United States, I step forth as the first human ever to walk on Martian ... hey, wait a minute, where did all these maple trees come from?"

    In other news: "Face On Mars" determined to have been modified to resemble Wayne Gretzky.

  • The plan will probably fall to hell if the Martians have been hankering for another condiment, though.


  • Did anyone else read that as 'NASA Wants To Invade Mars With Glowing JellyPants'?

    Yeah, didn't think so.

  • Rather than wondering if Mars can adequately support freakish glowing jelly plants, why not just plant a whole diverisy of different plant types and see what (if anything) CAN survive and adapt?

    Why are the folks at NASA so interested in whether Mars can support glowing jelly plants? Do they know something that we don't?!
  • You mean those plants that wear sunglasses that dance around to nearby music? Imagine a REAL plant that can do it!
  • If that's the case, let's plant hemp on Mars. Supply enough fuel to unleash a legion of HempCars []!

    I agree with you though that we seem to be, once again, taking an Americentric view of this. We are not the Undisputed Lords of Earth, folks. What might China or Zimbabwe like to do with our solar system? Never thought to ask them, huh?

    "Smear'd with gumms of glutenous heat, I touch..." - Comus, John Milton
  • You really should attribute your post to Pratchett.....

  • next will be plants in different colours, RGB, radiocontrolled showing pepsi and burgerking commercials. or WWF wrestling.


  • Sorry I'm far from a scientist but shouldn't NASA be benchmarking on how to actually get people to the moon. If I'm not mistaken, man can only stay in space for X amount of time before deterioration of the bones start to occur. If this is the case would it even matter if plants could exist on the planet if people couldn't eventually get there?

    Maybe someone would care to share information on the human anatomy in space, I know I've passed by URL's before indicating why astronauts couldn't stay in space for prolonged times, maybe someone has bookmarked it or studied it. With that in mind, I wonder what will be done via way of speed, ship, etc., to get there. Has NASA been in the works with some ultra high speed shuttle or something.
  • by joq ( 63625 ) on Friday June 01, 2001 @10:20AM (#183179) Homepage Journal
    Its about time the USA stopped funding NASA and Astrology altogether.

    He thinks this program was created by Miss Cleo who (according to him) was reading her tarot cards and predicted to him "Duh fayte of dee planitz iz inna yore handz tell dem at to call me now for my free psychic readin"

  • According to the Martian Consulate [], my family owns several square miles on Mars. They'd better keep those plants off our land. Now if NASA wants to lease our property for their experiments... :)

    - Milo Hyson
  • What if the jellyplants mutate under the harsh conditions of Mars and kill our astronauts when they get there (or adopt them as pets). There is no telling how lifeforms might evolve in an alien enviroment.
  • From the article: Editor's note: The plant experiments described in this story are funded by NASA's Human Exploration and Development of Space program. NASA is currently evaluating 43 Mars Scout proposals, of which this is only one.

    Maybe the title should have been "NASA Undecided as to Invading Mars With Glowing JellyPlants"... Either way, I want to know if any of the other 42 options are this strange...

  • by Incongruity ( 70416 ) on Friday June 01, 2001 @11:04AM (#183183)
    I would have to say I would disagree with sending any sort of lifeforms to Mars in the near future with intentions of allowing free growth.

    Would you please read the article before you post? I may be wrong, but it doesn't look like you did.... here's why I say that (really, I'm not trying to put up a flamebait post here!)

    In the article, it does not talk about simply releasing plants into an uncontrolled environment on mars. Towards the end of the article the following appears: " The first wave of Martian plants envisioned by Ferl and his colleagues would sprout inside a very small and protected greenhouse. " So the first experiment doesn't have the kind of intentions that you are speaking of...

    So how about the future, you might (and should) ask? Well, earlier in the article, the following quote was talking about future use of plants on mars as life support systems for human colonists: "Such life support systems on Mars will probably involve growing crop plants in Martian soil within specially designed greenhouses, says Andrew Schuerger, a manager of Mars projects with Dynamac Corporation at the NASA's Kennedy Space Center." Clearly the intent is, at first, to keep the plants in a controlled environment, and not allow them to range free.

    While that's all well and good, you also said: " Let us get some humans on the planet and set up some expirements to test for life before we think about Mars agriculture." And your point may be reasonable, to some fearful extent, but it is also addressed in the article:

    "Learning to grow plants on Mars will be an important precursor to humans living there. Future explorers will need oxygen, food, and purified water -- items too costly to ferry from Earth to Mars on a regular basis. But plants can help provide those essentials inexpensively and locally as part of a self-contained "bioregenerative" life support system."

    So the idea you suggest, sending a manned mission, is exactly what this research is trying to facilitate.

    Now, maybe I am wrong on this, or maybe I am reading too much into your comment, but I do agree with the general spirit of your point that we should be careful about importing non-martian native organisms into the Martin environment. A real worry, along those lines, is what happens if the plants in those enclosed environments do get released, and possibly what forseeable situations would lead to such a thing occurring?

    I dunno, it just seemed that your worries could have either been explained better or resolved by closer examination of the article. Indeed though, as I said, I do agree that there is something to at least consider or worry about before we send plants to Mars.

  • So that when they mutate, return, and try to replace us with custom pods, they'll be easier to identify. Most of we *real* people don't fluoresce...
  • Finally is it just me who is struck by the sheer outrageous obscenity and waste - all this money spent on throwing things at Mars when there are many problems on Earth that are far more pressing: AIDS, War, Famine, lack of gun control in our inner cities, etc etc etc.

    I don't know what you do for a living, but I'm sure that someone finds it worthless no matter how you might defend your interest/stance on the issue.

    The fact is, an astronomer isn't going to find the cure for AIDS and he/she isn't going to stop war, feed the hungry, or try and take away anybody's guns (besides, if someone tries to take away MY gun, they'll get shot.)

    Just because YOU think that those minor issues take priority over space exploration/exploitation doesn't mean that the rest of the right-thinking world agrees with you.

    Remember, at one time, people thought the search for the new world was a waste of resources.

    Luckily for us Americans, someone decided to make that journey.

    "Everything you know is wrong. (And stupid.)"
  • by tidge ( 85471 )
    .....all you have to do is put up a tent. Like in that one move....
  • "Its about time the USA stopped funding NASA and Astrology altogether."

    Mmm, yes, total shame about the countless billions the government spends on Astrology.



  • build a man a fire, he'll be warm for the night. set a man on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.
  • by Winged Cat ( 101773 ) <atymes&gmail,com> on Friday June 01, 2001 @10:56AM (#183189)
    is there a RL Prime Directive?

    All your planet are belong to us.

    Seriously: with Earth, there is a significant pre-existing ecosystem we have to respect lest we screw up humanity's only (at the moment) life support system. With all other planets (and moons, and asteroids) in our solar system, there is not, thus we are free to mess with them as we please. Similar arguments apply if you invoke the "right" of ecosystems to exist unmolested: by and large, there ain't no ecosystems outside of Earth right now.

    Granted, if we want to check to see if there is microbial life on other planets, we should do this before terraforming, but that's just a matter of dispatching the right probes while we're still determining how best to terraform. In fact, the data from said probes would probably be a useful step in the process of terraforming, since if life was detected, we would have the option of altering the native life to alter the planet rather than completely custom designing our own plant colonizers.

  • ...and I wonder where I can buy glowing jellypants.
  • Several words:

    Bob the Angry Flower [].

    Hint folks... He's not a pansy.


  • The plants are probably cheaper than any probe we build as well. Nature is better at building these sorts of things than humans are for sure.
  • Read the green, red , and ?blue? mars trilogy. You can't get a better in depth look at mars policy that that work of excellent fiction...
  • That's funny, I always thought "notorious spacetime crackpots" would be a great name for a band.
  • This could establish a whole new trend for the enviornmental movement - the protection of non-life. In all probability, there is no life on mars, and if there ever was, it's probably dead and gone.

    So, wouldn't you have to establish a Wildlifeless Preserve, to uh, preserve the natural state of wildlife on Mars (which is to say, either dead or never alive)?

    I guess it might make sense, but you'd have to sort of redefine preservation a little. Most nature preservation efforts and laws focus on things that are either alive, were once alive, or somehow relate to things that are alive. After all, nearly every square inch of Earth's surface contains life for some sort, so that's our bias. Even Antarctica - although not exactly in teaming multitudes or anything.

    So what might this mean here on Earth? If there were a truely lifeless place on Earth, would it be better (in therms of the enviornment) to try to keep it that way, or do we have something of an obligation as living organizms to try to spread life to new places?

    Sort of reminds me of some stuff from schismatrix [].


  • If we're going to contaminate a virgin planet with our filth. Why don't we go all out and use engineered micro-organisims to terraform Mars. We could create rust eating lifeforms that release oxygen and other gases thus regenerating the atmosphere. That way we'll have a place to move to when we've destroyed this planet. :-) THX1138az
  • Actually if this plant does adapt to the Martian climate it may pose a real hazard here on Earth. Imagine, if you will, many years from now an astronaut accidentally brings back this fully adapted species on his boot. What then?
  • I realize I'm a few days late, but Thank You! I keep reading about how best to terraform Mars, when I keep thinking that the question should be not *how* to terraform Mars, but *if* we should terraform Mars. It makes absolutely no sense to just throw something from Earth to another place without completely checking it out first.

    We build satellites in clean rooms, not only to make sure the satellites themselves work properly, but also to make sure that there is no such contamination from Earth possible. And if we're scared of Martian infection, so that we plan on isolating any soil samples that come back from Mars, what gives us the right to potentially put any life on Mars in danger with our contamination? And I know someone else already mentioned this, but if we're not even sure of how plants survive in different locations on Earth, then how the hell are we supposed to determine, and control, how those plants will survive on another place that we know, relatively speaking, almost nothing about?

    I'm not saying that we shouldn't go to other planets, but there is just so much that we could learn from life on Mars if some was ever found. I just wish that there were more people concerned with a) fixing life on Earth, for starters, before we mess up someplace else, and b) fixing the space program and its associated products so that a spacecraft carrying those plants doesn't end up crashing into the damn Moon, or just fly around Mars for the rest of eternity.

    sigh... I guess I'll just have to run for president.
  • the first thing i thought after seeing the title was that "holy cow, slashdot must have been hacked again!" what with the magnetic ring interview, the ballmer troll, and weird alien plants going to mars.
  • what the hell! you're gonna piss off the martians if you tell them that actually the UN owns their planet.
  • although they'll probably be pretty confused when glowing jellyfish start falling out of the sky as well.
  • I've got a better idea:

    Round up all those SUV-driving, cellphone-talking teenage girls, and launch them instead. Then simply monitor for attempted calls for help as they struggle to breathe... until one of them gets smart and finds Arnold's alien atmosphere device, anyway... naaah, it'll never happen.
  • The quote at the bottom of this page reads, "One planet is all you get."
  • This was my thought, once I had one that wasn't "Damn, those are some tiny bonsai mustard plants they're using". Why not try agriculture on a body a little closer to home first? One where we might realistically send space "farmers"... you know, like, the moon. Why are they going to Mars, except for the 31337-factor?
  • Through the entire thing, my friend.

    I felt kinda stupid after I registered that an 'l' was in there.

    - Ando
    You are the weakest link, goodbye.
  • Bone deterioration tends to occur in the absence of significant gravity. So one approach to reducing bone deterioration is creating a spacecraft that provides simulated gravity. Conceptually, the easiest way to do this is to impart a spin on the spacecraft; as you get further away from the axis of spin, you get more "gravity". One challenge with this approach, however, is that for a smallish spacecraft the differential gravity between your feet and your head could be significant and perhaps cause undesirable side effects. So another approach would be to have two spacecraft modules -- maybe one in-flight crew module, and one landing module that's not inhabited during the journey -- attached by a long, strong tether, and to spin the entire thing around the center of mass. A sufficiently long tether would allow you to get the modules far enough away from the center of mass that the differential forces within the individual module shouldn't be terribly large. Once you get to the surface of Mars, of course, there's sufficient gravity that the bone deterioration probably wouldn't be a major concern. (Other factors, like the lack of cosmic-ray protection, would likely become an issue.)

    Anyway, I'm no expert in this area, but if you're interested in practical tips for exploring Mars without spending NASA-sized sums of money, you should check out The Case for Mars [], which puts forth what appears to be a very well-researched and thoughtful plan.

  • Not even wowed by glowing plants!

    Glowing plants, not jellyfish, has N possible payoffs. Are you smart enough to figure them out? No? Then why don't you let the NASA guys figure out what these N possible payoffs are.

    Don't you get it? Life is a gamble with no guarantees. Risks and payoffs is the name of the game. Are you telling me that you want to risk *not* sending plants that glow in the dark to Mars as an analytic tool? This is the ultimate in self sufficient robotic analysis! You get to measure the soil, water, oxygen, and mineral conditions through a self propogating self sustaining device, a genetically engineered mustard plant!

    Geek dating! []
  • ?
    Jellyfish genes in plants. What are you talking about?

    Geek dating! []
  • Do they want to make sure they can make a decent sandwich when they get there?
  • Perhaps, as well, a few missteps and Mars becomes useless.

    All your .sig are belong to us!

  • One concern I tried to allude to, is once we start infecting Mars, microbial life or none, we fire-up an unstoppable engine. Nature is highly aggressive, anything earth introduces to Mars may have unpredictable results, i.e. Kudzu or Johnson Grass as alien species. Setting this engine in motion, is this left to the first country which tries it, or will nations put their collective heads together and say, "we should go about it this way." Big change to make, it should be done with greatest of care.

    All your .sig are belong to us!

  • by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Friday June 01, 2001 @09:50AM (#183214) Homepage Journal
    Quick, declare it an intergalactic wildlife refuge before oil drilling begins! (c=

    Seriously, has there been any convention on what is appropriate/inappropriate to do to Mars? Once it's infected, begins an unstoppable course if interferring with another world's development (or maybe they tried something like Chiu's magnetic rings and this is what happened to to their once lush planet, what with over population and all...) is there a RL Prime Directive?

    All your .sig are belong to us!

  • Oh, you're right, that completely explains his lack of logic. How could I have missed that. Thanks for pointing that out to me.
  • by bmongar ( 230600 ) on Friday June 01, 2001 @10:09AM (#183216)

    How in hell can sending glowing jellyfish to Mars have any possible payoff. Are these guys on crack ?

    Well let's see. Such research could be used to produce crops on earth too. If they can engineer a plant that can live on mars it surely can live in the Sudan. Plants that glow when they are stressed, yep usefull in agriculture, let's you know when to water or whatever

    Do the Americans think they OWN Mars ? Surely Mars is owned by the United Nations who entrust that nobody destroys it.

    Nope, they don't thing they own mars, they think nobody owns mars. So who will stop them. According to UN treaty no govenrment body can own any other planet or moon

    Finally is it just me who is struck by the sheer outrageous obscenity and waste - all this money spent on throwing things at Mars when there are many problems on Earth that are far more pressing: AIDS, War, Famine, lack of gun control in our inner cities, etc etc etc.

    I wish this argument would go away. but here goes the counter

    War: Nope, our tax dollars won't prevent that

    Famine: Yep, spending money on genitically enginering these plants ccould sure benifit the worlds food supply

    AIDS: Maybe more money could be spend on AIDS research, but it is very well funded probably to the point of diminisheing returns

    Lack of gun control: Nope, NASA's money isn't going to make the legislative process any smarter

    Its about time the USA stopped funding NASA and Astrology altogether.

    That's Astronomy not Astrology

  • from Mars, but it is OK to introduce biologics from Terra to Mars...

    I'm missing something here...

  • Dang, so they've gone with the glowing jelly plants, but we can still grab the patent on glowing peanut butter plants that grow on Mars!

    Just think, now all we have to is name the first astronaut to Mars with some good names like Calvin or maybe Hobbes and send them off to put tiger traps on Mars.

    We'll need some bread that can survive the round trip of course, or maybe we can outfit the spacecraft with an easy bake oven ...

  • I think you have that wrong. Its not profitable enough to *cure* cancer. It would be better to simply kill it for a while, then they keep coming back for more treatment. The weapon part is probley a better way to describe the wants of "the powers that be". I personly don't think its a good idea to put anything on mars thats alive as of yet. Think about what people have been talking about as of late: Anything from mars needs to be quarentened.

    Yet we will send life there? Where is the logic? Dont screw up earth, screw up mars, after all we dont know if there is life there....

    The Lottery:
  • Check out Kim Stanley Robinson's series about this very subject: Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars.

    There's a breakaway faction (the "Reds") among the colonists who think that it's inherently wrong to turn Mars into a copy of Earth (rather than leaving it in its pristine state to permit further scientific study). A sort of civil war breaks out over the issue. (The sequence of titles gives you a hint as to who wins, though.)

  • I think I saw that in Half Life after I went through the world portal thingie! Gordon Freeman should sue NASA for ripping off his discovery! :P

    But that would be pretty cool to have in my home. Gives me oxygen, food AND light, gotta love those plants!


  • by jsse ( 254124 ) on Friday June 01, 2001 @10:42AM (#183222) Homepage Journal
    No! Don't do that! They might evolve into intelligent martians and come back to attack us! You'll never know how cosmo radition would alter their genetic structure. We have enough trouble to worry when will killer tomatos come and get us all! []
  • Even worse, remember that some joker was selling real estate on Mars a few years back. What happens if the purchasers decide NASA is infringing on their claim? Think about it. Todays jests are tomorrows lawsuits.
  • Mustard plants have their own defense mechanism - spicy taste. It's not unlike the defenses of spiny pufferfish or bad tasting Monarch butterflies. If a Martian predator tried to eat a plant, they'd likely just spit it out and move on to the next tasty-looking organism.

    The plan will probably fall to hell if the Martians have been hankering for another condiment, though. ;-)

    Dancin Santa

    You heard it here first, folks! Start loading the barrels.

    Dancin Santa
  • by cryptochrome ( 303529 ) on Friday June 01, 2001 @10:02AM (#183226) Journal
    Well this is certainly an interesting idea, and the greenhouse plan sounds fine, but if you want to grow plants on the martian surface you've got a LOT of problems to overcome (nearly zero air pressure, dry-ice cold temperatures, hardly any water, no magnetosphere to protect against cosmic rays, high UV, etc) No fancy reporter system is going to fix that. Try growing plants in antartica first.

    One issue I had: the reporter gene is presumably GFP. GFP doesn't actually glow, it flouresces. If coupled to luciferase it could glow, but then you wouldn't actually need GFP because the luciferase itself produces light. Of course you could always just light them yourself with external UV, or the natural UV on mars may be enough on its own (during the day, anyway). Also, there are many variants of GFP that glow in different colors besides green, so you could use those to offer a richer set of reporter genes.

  • At first I misread:
    NASA and university researchers are looking into creating PANTS that emit a jellyfish-like glow as a signal of trouble
    Just imagine what sort of trouble!


  • I think that if Mars were shown to have no life whatsoever, it would a terrible waste to not make use of it to the fullest extent possible.

    Seriously, if it were to come down to an overpopulation issue sometime in the future (say when terraforming technologies are possible), which would YOU choose to preserve and which to plonk humans all over: lifeless Mars, or the Kruger National Park? I would hope that preserving actual existing life on Earth would take priority over lifeless rock.

    I think "prime directives" should apply only to planets with life. If not, then we're stuck on Earth forever, and we're screwed if anything should ever happen to Earth. Also, if we're going to protect Mars, why not the moon? We've already sent all sorts of crap to the moon so its too late for that.

  • "For me ta draw turdy-five cardz and not draw a single jellyplant, that tellz me sumtin"

  • Bah, the end of half-life sucked (the entire Xen, etc, episode). The Darkstar mod, on the other hand... that ending was good :)

  • Martians, Earth speaking! All resistence is futile! Prepare to be sown. All your manure are belong to us.

  • I told my girlfriend the other day how corporations worked and summed it up exactly like that: Sell a man a fish and he gives you 1$. Teach a man a fish and you'll go broke.
  • Apparently the glowing plants took over all of the surface of Mars and are now emiting a spooky blue glow. Heh, but seriously how cool would it be to start remotely teraforming Mars? Like another slashdot poster said. If we know absolutely nothing is on it, maybe we should start bombing Mars with seeds and start an ecosystem there.
  • Let me sex them up a little before you launch them off.

  • A jellyfish on the surface of mars would be too small for an earth based telescope to see. Even the hubble space telescope is not powerful enough to see a jellyfish at this distance. Americans fail yet again!!!

    Wow, good thing you caught this. Mars being so far away, I guess NASA messed up their imperial and metric measurements again.

  • "Pristine?"

    *sigh* Ok, Mars is not capable of supporting any real life. It's the only moral thing to do to turn the planet into a useable space for humans. Humanity is an end in itself, planets have no value other than how valueable they are to us. the most valuable thing is Human Life. We respect earth not because it is a good in itself, we respect it because it's our home, and we need to survive on it. Things in nature just "are", they have no volition and therefore can't be "good" or "evil"... They can only be good in reference to something, i. e. human life. If you're going to call things good or bad, you've got to have a value system. and if you love life, your value system starts with man's life. We can leave mars a barren wasteland, or we can terraform it into a beautiful habitat for us.


  • Terraforming Mars [] is one of those ideas so outrageous that it just might work!
  • awww..did anyone even ask the lil plants if they want to be sent up there? :(
  • Did anyone read the part about the greenhouse footprint? 10"x10", and weighing only 15-20 pounds. That's pretty damn remarkable. Said they could fit between 20-30 plants in there. Is this actually possible? Does anyone know what method they will use to see whether or not the plants are growing?

  • Hmm...Must be April First again ;-)
  • didnt the martians do the same thing to our planet and thats why were here?
    just think, in a few billion years their will be a whole race of jelly people who want to send plants to earth (which would be dead killed by our stupidity of course), and the cycle begins again!
    'time is liek a river and history always repeats' -ff3

  • Once the deadwood is removed, replace those pathetic excuses for Operating Systems, and install *BSD and Linux. For chrissakes, they're using WINDOWS for virtually everything! It's no wonder everything they make blows up or cracks up.

    Some guy in accounting forgot to pay the bill, and Buzz the Happy Space Cadet is preparing for landing, when the speaker booms:

    Your Windows XP licence is 30 days past due, the system will shut down in 30 seconds. Call 1-888-555-5555 if you have any questions about your bill. Thank you for chosing Microsoft.

  • I thought the headline said glowing jelly pants.
  • Why not just make it so the plants tell us whats wrong?
  • I think the point of spending the money is the same as all research - sacrifice some of what we could have today to make tomorrow better. It's the same as investing in a 401k plan - you give up a small part of your paycheck today, but when you retire it's worth a great deal more than the money you put in.

    The specific payoff to this is that it's the beginning of teraforming. Eventually we are going to outgrow the Earth. In order to support life easily, plant growth is essential; that's what made Earth habitable. The purpose of sending these plants up is to help us learn how to grow plants in that environment. Now, a full teraforming job like the Earth is obviously far too long-term to be useful now, but it could be much faster in a controlled environment, such as the confines of a colony.

    As far as ethics go, I think we are choosing to make an unihabitable place habitable. It is probably not different than doing it on the moon, or in a desert on Earth, etc. From another point of view, it is not ethical to force our decendants to live on an overcrowded earth when we have available unused space on Mars.
  • Lack of gun control: Nope, NASA's money isn't going to make the legislative process any smarter

    I think that the share of the total budget NASA gets is so small that it wouldn't make any difference anyway.
  • The part of the article I thought was most interesting was:

    "It will be a symbolic step," he says, "of life from Earth, leaving Earth, and growing somewhere else." And when this little plant grows on Mars, he believes, it's going to be a major awakening of our interest in our future in space.

    Umm IANAP (I am not a psychic), but do they REALLY believe this plant will survive?

    It's my understanding that Martian conditions are pretty harsh - what with the lack of water, oxygen, high radiation, etc. How exactly do they expect these plants to survive without life support systems propping them up?

    Personally I would be amazed if plant lived, because you don't see antartica covered with mustard plants. Now perhaps they should first drop their jelly-mustard seeds over the south pole and see how they fare before sending them to Mars.

  • The deterioration of bones is due to lack of gravity, because your sckeleton needs not support all of your weight anymore. It's a problem in deep space, but it would not be so on Mars, or at least not to the same extent. Mars does have a gravity lesser than Earth, but it's still comparable to it.
  • Honestly Humans are willing to destroy life on a global scale here on earth, we are willing to make engineered viruses to stop other animals from reproducing. I dont think we are beyond causing the extinction of a alien microbe, unless this microbe can cure cancer or be used as a powerful weapon... ;)
  • A couple of point mr troll. Space research has lead to benifits on earth directly and in a spin off capacity. It is difficult to inflict an environmental disaster on a planet with no environment. Not all problems can be solved by spending money.(AIDS, War, Famine ...) The USA is funding Astronomy not Astrology. I leave it to you to look up the difference in a dictionary.
  • Seriously, though. With all the hype over highly-advanced uses for tools like these, it makes you wonder if they've considered using them closer to home. Imagine how useful plants like that would be if they were engineered to produce light at any point in a photosynthetic lull...Truly efficient solar-powered lights! Try easing the energy crunch on the West Coast and slow the wrecking of this planet before you jump off to prepare another one, bozos. Boing!
  • Even though we rule in the third planet from the sun that does not give us the right to choose the course of evolution -or destruction- of any other planet. Looking at what we've done to our own home planet, the future doesn't look so bright when thinking in modifiying genetic structures and sending them away to see what happens.
  • I think that if Mars were shown to have no life whatsoever, it would a terrible waste to not make use of it to the fullest extent possible.
    What, like stripmining it to get those useful iron oxides, then using the iron to build starships?

The world is coming to an end--save your buffers!