In a bombshell experiment, two baby earthworms were born into a Mars-simulated environment.
Volcanic rocks and pig manure were mixed to mimic the characteristics of soil on the distant planet.
Wiger Wamelink – a biologist at Wageningen University and Research Centre in the Netherlands – then added live adult worms which, in turn, created offspring.
The appearance of baby worms suggests that – by using manure – humans will be able to sustain life if they eventually move to Mars.
“Clearly the manure stimulated growth, especially in the Mars soil simulant, and we saw that the worms were active,” Dr Wamelink said.
“However, the best surprise came at the end of the experiment when we found two young worms in the Mars soil simulant.”
Worms are important for healthy soil as they thrive on dead organic matter – such as old plant remains.
They then eat, chew and mix with soil before they excrete it to create live matter.
Dr Wamelink added that the “application of worms will solve the problem” of less water on Mars.
The experiment has proven so popular that a crowdfunding campaign has been launched to continue them, which has already raised more $5,000 (£3,740).
And the breakthrough could be good news for billionaire space boffin Elon Musk who plans to start a one-million-person colony on Mars.
The SpaceX boss wants to send a rocket to the Red Planet in 2022, people there in 2024 and then finally a refuelling base so rockets can fly back to Earth.