These Mock Martian Crops Show We Could Grow Food On Mars

Establishing a sustainable colony on Mars would come with incredible challenges, none more pressing than figuring out how to keep inhabitants from starving.

To the delight of sci-fi fans, the innovative approach of fictional astronaut Mark Watney to growing potatoes in the movie “The Martian” might just be the solution.

Scientists at Wageningen University and Research Centre in the Netherlands say they have successfully grown — and harvested — several crops, including tomatoes and peas, in simulated Martian and lunar soils.

The goal of the ongoing study is to provide the basis for growing crops on Mars and the moon, the researchers say.

The simulated soils that NASA developed are designed to mimic conditions on the red planet and the moon. The Mars simulant comes from a Hawaiian volcano and the fake moon dirt originates from an Arizona desert.

Dr. Wieger Wamelink, lead researcher of the plant-growth studies, said in a statement that the results of the latest experiment came as a “real surprise.” The veggies grown in the “Martian” soil yielded a comparable amount of food to those grown in an Earth compost control.

Improving on a first round of experiments in 2013, Wamelink’s team used trays instead of small pots, which helped solve the issue of watering. They added organic material to the simulated soils. Unlike the earlier tests, when numerous plants perished, the veggies not only grew, but flourished.

“It shows that the Mars soil simulant has great potential when properly prepared and watered,” said Wamelink of the results, which have yet to be peer reviewed or published.

Of the 10 crop species grown, —> Read More