Edible Martian Crops

Martian crops plants in space

While researchers simulate Martian crops on Earth, astronauts try to cultivate plants in space.

Dutch scientists managed to grow Martian crops that are safe to eat. As the first trip to Mars is under preparation, researchers are trying to figure out how to sustain life on the planet.

The idea is not new, and biologists sought to simulate Martian crops even before any movies included extraterrestrial potatoes into their scenario. Ever since 2013, scientists cultivated ten different types of plants in a soil similar to that on Mars.

The land that was used had the same composition as the one found in some areas of the Red Planet. Scientists mentioned that the crops were not just unique plants that managed to survive, but abundant fields of mature plants with ripping fruits.

The latest Martin agricultural success consisted of radishes, tomatoes, peas and rye.

After tests, the resulting plants were found not to have any dangerous levels of substances that are toxic to humans.

“These remarkable results are very promising. We can actually eat the radishes, peas, rye and tomatoes, and I am very curious what they will taste like,” said senior ecologist Wieger Wamelink.

Even if the soil used in the experiment was fabricated according to the chemical composition found on Mars, it is unclear if heavy elements like lead, copper and cadmium will be absorbed by the plants while growing on the planet.

The Martial soil consists of dust and rock fragments. The regolith can also contain frozen water in variable proportions, going as much as 60%. The soil also contains olivine, a magnesium iron silicate of a greenish color that is very common on Earth.

A 2008 spacecraft returned soil samples from Mars that contained potassium, chloride, sodium, and magnesium, all chemicals that are crucial for living organisms.

Over the years, different robotic rovers found samples which had a different chemical composition, leading researchers to believe that the Mars surface can have areas that are less toxic in their composition.

Scientists will continue to test crops in order to offer space travelers more options when it comes to Mars agriculture. No one knows which plants will survive and which will not, and neither what would be the costs of this agricultural adventure in space.

The next plants that will undergo the simulation will be potatoes. The researchers will start a crowdsourcing campaign to raise the funds needed for their experiments.

As NASA is already testing the phase two of their Space Launch System, figuring out menus for future astronauts may not be such a bad idea.

Image Source: Wikipedia