Potatoes in Mars: Scientists Successfully Grow Spuds in a Mars-like Environment

By Chris Yalom, The Goldwater · 03-30-2017
Photo credit: Carissa Bonham

On Feb. 14, 2016, scientists at the International Potato Center in Peruvian capital of Lima, planted a potato tuber in a cubesat-size container mimicking Martian temperatures and atmospheric conditions. The experiment is the same as the Hollywood film The Martian shown the same year. The movie was about a stranded astronaut figuring out how to grow potatoes on the red planet in order to survive.

Scientists were able to successfully grow a potato in a dry, desert soil with high carbon-dioxide surroundings condition. Scientist planted 65 varieties of potatoes and four sprouted from the soil.

Peruvian scientists built a simulator similar to the condition in the red planet in a box. The temperature was set below-zero with a high concentration of carbon monoxide. The air pressure is the same found at an altitude of 6,000 meters (19,700 feet). The system of lights imitates the Martian day and night.

Though still in early stages, scientists at the International Potato Center describe these preliminary results as "positive" and said that they plan to perform more experiments in the future. The initial results are a reassuring indicator that potatoes might one day be harvested under conditions as harsh environment as those on Mars.

Julio Valdivia-Silva, a research associate with the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute in California who works at the University of Engineering and Technology in Lima said that if the crops can tolerate the harsh conditions in cubesat that we are exposing them, then they have a good chance to grow on Mars.

The result of this experiment could benefit not only future Mars exploration, but also the driest regions of our planet. Scientists said, this potato research could have applications for both Earthly and Space. International Potato Center breeds cloned potato that can tolerate high salt conditions or drought where farmers can benefits from it.

Darryl Waller, a public affairs officer at NASA's Ames Research Center in California said that the result from the experiment can be used in earthly agriculture to increase food security around the world.

Scientists plans to build three more simulators to grow potato plants under extreme conditions and plans to increase the carbon dioxide concentrations to more closely imitate the Martian atmosphere.

With technological advancement, there is a possibility that man can live in Mars in the future just like the movie, The Martian.

Source:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/life-on-mars-grow-potatoes-center-lima-peru-replicating-atmosphere-conditions-center-carbon-dioxide-a7657576.html

http://www.space.com/36015-potatoes-grow-mars-conditions-experiment.html

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