Scientists Are Trying to Grow Potatoes on 'Mars'

NASA has teamed up with the International Potato Center (CIP) in an effort to find out if the potato will be part of the Mars mission.


NASA has teamed up with the International Potato Center (CIP) in an effort to find out if the potato will be part of the Mars mission.

The collaboration will put 100 different varieties of potatoes through a series of tests to see if its resilience is enough to survive the harsh Martian conditions. This effort will also help find a plant that can feed those here on Earth affected by famine.

“How better to learn about climate change than by growing crops on a planet that died 2 billion years ago?” said Joel Ranck, CIP Head of Communications. “We need people to understand that if we can grow potatoes in extreme conditions like those on Mars, we can save lives on Earth.”

Researchers will replicate Martian conditions by using soil from the Pampas de La Joya Desert in Peru and altering the atmospheric conditions in a lab. 

"We're almost 100 percent certain that many of the selected potatoes will pass the tests,” Julio Valdivia-Silva, a Peruvian NASA astrobiologist, said in a press release.

The potatoes will have to survive more than the Mars conditions, though. The study will also look at how certain potato plants handle the freezing, which will take place during a Mars trip to prevent germination. The plants will then be thawed to see if the potatoes can survive to be planted on the foreign planet. The final test will be sending the potatoes into space via a CubeSat to see if they can grow in a low-gravity environment.

They're confident the potatoes will be able to survive.

“The extraordinary efforts of the team have set the bar for extraterrestrial farming. The idea of growing food for human colonies in space could be a reality very soon.” said Chris McKay, planetary scientist of the NASA Ames research center.

Humans have a tough road ahead if we're going to become a spacefaring species. But it's ultimately going to help us survive in the long run. If astronaut Scott Kelly can find a way to garden in space, researchers can find a way to grow potatoes on Mars.

***

Photo Credit: ESA via Getty Images

Natalie has been writing professionally for about 6 years. After graduating from Ithaca College with a degree in Feature Writing, she snagged a job at PCMag.com where she had the opportunity to review all the latest consumer gadgets. Since then she has become a writer for hire, freelancing for various websites. In her spare time, you may find her riding her motorcycle, reading YA novels, hiking, or playing video games. Follow her on Twitter: @nat_schumaker

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

26 ultra-rich people own as much as the world's 3.8 billion poorest

The Oxfam report prompted Anand Giridharadas to tweet: "Don't be Pinkered into everything's-getting-better complacency."

Getty Images and Wikimedia Commons
Politics & Current Affairs
  • A new report by Oxfam argues that wealth inequality is causing poverty and misery around the world.
  • In the last year, the world's billionaires saw their wealth increase by 12%, while the poorest 3.8 billion people on the planet lost 11% of their wealth.
  • The report prompted Anand Giridharadas to tweet: "Don't be Pinkered into everything's-getting-better complacency." We explain what Steven Pinker's got to do with it.
Keep reading Show less

People who constantly complain are harmful to your health

Moans, groans, and gripes release stress hormones in the brain.

Photo credit: Getty Images / Stringer
popular

Could you give up complaining for a whole month? That's the crux of this interesting piece by Jessica Hullinger over at Fast Company. Hullinger explores the reasons why humans are so predisposed to griping and why, despite these predispositions, we should all try to complain less. As for no complaining for a month, that was the goal for people enrolled in the Complaint Restraint project.

Participants sought to go the entirety of February without so much as a moan, groan, or bellyache.

Keep reading Show less
Videos
  • Facebook and Google began as companies with supposedly noble purposes.
  • Creating a more connected world and indexing the world's information: what could be better than that?
  • But pressure to return value to shareholders came at the expense of their own users.
Keep reading Show less