Scientists in the Netherlands have successfully bred two earthworms in simulated Mars soil.
Wageningen University and Research Centre biologist, Wieger Wamelink, discovered two young worms in combined NASA-made Martian soil (made from volcanic terrestrial rocks) and pig manure soil after two adult worms place in the mixture managed to reproduce.
“Clearly the manure stimulated growth, especially in the Mars soil simulant, and we saw that the worms were active. However, the best surprise came at the end of the experiment when we found two young worms in the Mars soil simulant,” Wamelink added.
This confirms that worms can not only survive in the fake Martian soil mixture but also procreate.
Worms also play an important part in agriculture by breaking down organic matter in soil which releases vital plant nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium.
“To feed future humans on Mars a sustainable closed agricultural ecosystem is a necessity. Worms will play a crucial role in this system as they break down and recycle dead organic matter,” a release from the university said.
The scientist further explained that worms for integral to “future indoor gardens on Mars or the moon” since, in addition to releasing nutrients used by plants, they burrowing which improves water absorption, oxygen transport and the overall structure of the soil.
The university's crowdfunding initiative "Worms for Mars" has, so far, raised almost €6,000 towards the continuation of the experiments. The research team's goal is €10,000.
Scientists from Wageningen University & Research have been successfully growing edible crops – including green beans, peas, tomatoes, potatoes and carrots – in NASA-made Mars and moon soil simulants, since 2013.
The climate on Mars is not naturally habitable.
NASA hopes to send humans to Mars by 2040.