In 2035, astronaut Mark Watney is presumed dead after a fierce dust storm on Mars. His fellow astronauts have headed back to Earth, believing Watney is no more. NASA holds a funeral for the astronaut. But the earthling on the Red Planet is alive, but alone on the alien planet. Learning about Watney, the US space agency decides to bring the stranded astronaut back to home. But it will take a long time for NASA to reach Mars. On the other side, Watney is struggling due to the limited food supply. This is when he discovers how to grow food on Mars. The astronaut grows potatoes on the fourth planet from the sun. This is the story of The Martian, a science fiction film released in 2015.
Although The Martian is a fictional work, Matt Damon-starrer raises a very interesting question: Is it possible to grow crops on our neighbor planet? The topic becomes serious at a time when scientists have been looking for evidence of life on Mars. The Martian may be a science fiction film, but it involved NASA while making the space movie. The space agency answered many questions and helped make things scientifically correct in the film.
Coming back to the original question, how you can grow food on the Martian soil.
For researchers, it is necessary to get an answer to the question before humans set a foot on the Earth’s cousin. Life on Red Planet has been a subject of interest for the last many years. It is because Mars is close to our home planet and has lots of similarities with it. Scientists have proofs which suggest that the neighbor planet once had water and environment habitable for microorganisms. Not just NASA, but agencies like ESA and ISRO are also closely observing the Red Planet to understand more about it.
According to scientists who had or have been working on projects related to Mars, the planet once had life and there is a huge possibility that it can allow humans to live there.
As Mars is far from Earth, scientists who will land on the distant planet in the future won’t be able to take enough food supply with them. In addition to learning how to survive, they will also have to understand how to grow food on Mars.
Was Watney Right? Do Potatoes Grow On Mars?
In The Martian, NASA astronaut Watney grows potatoes on the Red Planet. Is it possible to grow the cultivated edible planet on Mars? The International Potato Center has an answer to the question.
Also called CIP, the research organization carried out a study to understand how potatoes can be grown on Mars. It prepared a piece of land to mimic the Red Planet’s environment where it tried growing potatoes. And, guess what? The ‘Potatoes on Mars’ project successfully grew potatoes. It means it is possible to grow crops on the neighbor planet.
How To Generate Stable Food Supply On Mars?
The second smallest planet in the Solar System may be an earth-like body, but it is not habitable right now. However, NASA has planned to land humans on the distant planet in the near future. In fact, the efforts are underway. Before launching a human-spacecraft towards the Red Planet, the agency needs to find out how to grow crops on Mars as a stable supply of food.
Various past researches suggest that astronauts can use microbes as a food source on the alien planet. Apart from that, they also set up a greenhouse in a controlled environment to grow crops. Such a test was carried out on International Space Station (ISS). Astronauts aboard the space station successfully grew plants in the microgravity.
Last year, a group of students at the Villanova University carried out a study where they tried growing kale, potatoes, garlic, lettuce, and hops in a controlled environment with conditions similar to that of Mars. They succeeded in growing almost all kinds of crops they had tested, except potatoes.
Apart from scientists from all around the world, NASA has been carrying out experiments to grow food on the Red Planet. Kennedy Space Center’s scientists are working hard to understand what kinds of foods Martian soil will allow growing and how first Martians can produce them on an alien place with less gravity than the home planet. They have been conducting tests with different temperatures and lighting to understand what space conditions may suit the best to generate stable food supply on the distant planet.
There are some studies that suggest astronaut Watney’s idea to grow potatoes on Mars may work, while the Villanova University researchers believe their version of the test is correct. NASA is yet to decide what its first humans on the Red Planet will produce.
What do you think? Was astronaut Watney from The Martian was right? Or, NASA will come up with some other idea on how to grow food on Mars?