A lab in the Netherlands has successfully bred two healthy earthworms in simulated Martian soil, boosting hopes for future farming on the red planet.
Wieger Wamelink, a biologist at Wageningen University and Research Centre, put adult worms into a mixture of NASA-made Martian soil simulants and pig manure, on which he was running plant growth experiments.
In a statement last week, the scientist said it was “the best surprise” when at the end of the experiment, two young worms were found in the soil.
“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,” the university said.
It added that worms will be important for “future indoor gardens on Mars or the moon”, releasing nutrients used by plants and digging burrows that improve soil structure, allowing for better absorption.
The landmark discovery has been hailed as an important milestone for future exploration of the planet.
A crowdfunding initiative started by the university, Worms for Mars, has raised almost 6,000 euros towards continuing its research into the Martian worms.