Astroecology for Young People

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Asparagus seedling growing in
Martian Soil


A meteorite from Mars was ground up and used as soil for algae and plants.

Algae growing in
Martian Soil


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What do Ecologists study?

All living things interact with their environment. Ecologists study how we affect the environment and how it affects us in return.

How does the environment affect us?

The environment provides us with food, with materials to make clothes and build buildings. The resources in the environment decide how well we can and even how many people can live in our world.

How do we change our environment?

We take food from the soil and other living things, we build and destroy things. We must get rid of refuse or recycle it. We also affect other living things like plants and animals.

What is an Astro-Ecologist?

When people move into space we will need resources to live on. An Astro-Ecologist studies what we can find in space to sustain us, how many people could live there, and how we shall affect the space environment.

What resources can we find in space?

On the planets in our solar system we can find minerals to use for soil, and maybe even water on the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. We can mine the Moon, use the soil of Mars and maybe "terraform" it - make it Earth-like so that we can live there. In space we can also find abundant and clean energy from the Sun, free and available 24 hours every day.

But most importantly, we can use the asteroids which are the mountain-size rocks orbiting the Sun. They are easy to reach, and many contain water and carbon, the basic elements of Life. We can build cities in them, and use them to buil giant, country-size space colonies.

How can we know that the asteroids and Mars can support life?

Fortunately, we have material from the asteroids and Mars in the form of meteorites that fell on Earth. We can find out what nutrients they contain and if microbes and plants can live on them.

What have we found out so far?

We found that certain types of meteorites that came from asteroids contain many organic compounds, that is, moleculeas that contain carbon. Microbes can use this form of carbon to grow. We also found that small asparagus and potato plants can grow in these materials. For example, rocks from Mars contain phosphate that plants need, and asparagus plants grow well on these rocks.

 What will Astro-Ecologists do in the future?

They will get materials from various asteroids and planets. They will find out which microbes, algae or plants grow best on each type of soil. This will help us decide how best to transform the Solar System into a good place for billions, or even trillions of people to live.

How can I become and Astro-Ecologist?

You can study your favorite science in high school and university. Space science and Astro-Ecology will need many skilled scientists - biologists, ecologists, geologists, chemists, astronomers and physicists. You can   make many important discoveries in this new science.

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