System 204 - Landing-Party Survey Report
The atmosphere is thin but comfortably breathable with
the help of respiratory oxygenators. The air is hot and
the planet semi-arid, but movement is relatively
effortless in this low g environment. Colonists could
adapt to these conditions. Plant-like life-forms are locally
abundant and shows adaptation to xerophytic
conditions. <This planet is considerable smaller than the
Earth, but significantly larger and more massive than
Mars and so has retained a significant atmosphere.>

One dominant photosynthetic form consists of a stem
possessing between 1 and 10 swollen internodes
(segments) with a basal root disc and 2 to 4 apical
capsules. Each capsule is a spherical leaf-like structure
which splits open to reveal a spheroidal organ which
emits a reddish light at night. This presumably attracts
some, as yet, unidentified organism which may assist in
spore dispersal or pollination. The capsules are
perhaps shed, perhaps in an annual cycle, as a new
node is added, although it seems possible that new
nodes may form at the root disc or at the apex.
Younger forms with fewer nodes have a curious way of
avoiding being permanently buried in sand-drifts, their roots
are capable of slow rhythmic undulations which push the
organism back towards the surface and also allow them to
crawl very slowly across the surface sands in response to
light. In this way the organisms tend to aggregate on top of
dunes and other brightly-lit vantage points. The roots seem
to have little water-absorptive function, especially in these
young mobile specimens, with moisture largely acquired
from dew which condenses during the long nights <a night
here lasts about 4 Earth days>. Taller specimens 9those
with more than about 5 internodal segments) seem to lose
their mobility and put down deep tap-roots into the water

Presumably the bioluminescent lures attract flying
organisms during the long nights. As water is gathered and
stored at night, so carbon dioxide is also absorbed by night,
via rows of pores which open in the longitudinal furrows of
each segment, closing briefly when frosts form during the
latter part of night as temperatures approach or surpass
zero. During the day light energy is utilised to assimilate the
stored carbon dioxide. This arrangement conserves water
as daytime temperatures soar.

Absorption of mineral nutrients also appears to occur mainly
by night. Some nutrients are absorbed along with dew
droplets that form over the surface, but some mineral
particles are also phagocytosed by the roots at night.

This organism is dioecious (there are two separate sexes)
although gender determination does not appear to be
hereditary and may utilise a random gene switch. The two
sexes differ morphologically in the appearance of the
capsules, which are much more open in the male. The
details of the life-cycle have yet to be established. We
cannot rule out the possibility of alternation of generations.

The low gravity of this planet has made the role of
mechanical support easier. Much of the vegetation has
reached considerable size without the need of polymers
comparable to lignin in wood. However, this semi-arid planet
has not developed dense forests.

Other vegetative forms are also abundant. One of these is
a prostrate form, which again has swollen internodes but no
root system. It simply forms long chains which grow by
addition of new segments at both ends and are light enough
to be blown across the plains, rolling and twisting and
occasionally fragmenting into two new chains at the nodes.
One of these forms is visible in the image above, having
become tangled amongst other vegetation.

Leave a robot probe on the planet's surface to conduct longer-term observations and then

Set a course for a new target system