Mars could very well see its first human visitors within a decade's time, whether it's from NASA or some private space company. These human Martians will find themselves in a barren, truly alien landscape the likes of which no human has experienced before. Before they get there, NASA would like to give these brave pioneers a little housewarming present: a bouquet of flowers.
Stashed aboard the the new second-generation Curiosity rover will be a number of seeds that NASA thinks could survive on the harsh Martian landscape. Dubbed the Mars Plant Experiment (MPX), NASA would like to see if it could get a few flowers (specifically a species of Arabidopsis) to grow while subjected to Martian radiation.
The flowering plants won't be allowed to actually take hold in Martian soil, because NASA doesn't want to threaten whatever ecosystem might actually exist on Mars before astronauts have a chance to explore the red planet themselves. After its Martian landing, slated for early 2021, the new Curiosity will begin its MPX experiment, watering and hopefully germinating the Arabidopsis seeds.
It'll only take about 15 days to get a result, after which we'll at the very least be closer to understanding if low Martian gravity and high radiation levels will support plant life. If it does, healthy portions of veggies and some breathable oxygen will be on the menu for future Martian colonists.