Science

NASA tests potato growing in Mars-like atmosphere

photo credit: Potatoes are a good food source for those without much to eat. International Potato Center/Memac Ogilvy

When we, at last, get individuals to Mars to form a colony and live, what are they going to eat? Eventually those pioneers are going to have to move away from the supplies taken with them from our planet and begin growing their own food in Mar’s soil. In the film “The Martian,” partially famed for its accuracy in science, the character played by Matt Damon turns to the only choice he has left: and it is potatoes. However, it seems as if the growing spuds in the Red Planet’s soil may not be such a crazy concept, as NASA announced they have partnered up with the International Potato Center in order to determine if it’s possible.

The experiment is going to use soil deemed almost identical to that of Mars, derived from the Pampas de La Joya desert within southern Peru. Researchers then will replicate Mar’s atmosphere in the laboratory, which is 95.32% carbon dioxide and 0.13% oxygen. Given the importance of CO2 in photosynthesis, it’s expected that this massive rise of gas might increase the potato crop by between 2 – 3 times the usual yields on Earth.

It’s hoped that these experiments that test the idea of extraterrestrial farming eventually will lead to potatoes being cultivated in domed plots upon Mar’s itself within the not-too-distant future.

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