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Growing Potatoes on Mars Not Just for the Movies as NASA Tests Theory

Image: Growing Potatoes on Mars Not Just for the Movies as NASA Tests Theory
This self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows the vehicle at the "Mojave" site, where its drill collected the mission's second taste of Mount Sharp. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS via Getty Images ; Inset: Juliasv/Dreamstime.com)
 

By    |   Wednesday, 23 Dec 2015 11:02 AM

Growing potatoes on Mars could be a reality one day if a research center's attempt to cultivate the crop in Martian-like conditions goes well.

With the help of NASA, the Peru-based International Potato Center hopes to show that potatoes can be grown in some of the most inhospitable environments known to man, according to a statement. The scientists hope the research will lead to building a controlled dome on Mars that will allow the crop to be raised on Martian soil.

Growing potatoes on Mars was one of the plotlines to the motion picture "The Martian." Matt Damon's character, a botanist, learned how to grow potatoes on Mars in a contained environment, which became his main food source when he became stranded there, according to CNBC.

"How better to learn about climate change than by growing crops on a planet that died 2 billion years ago?" Joel Ranck, the center's communication head, said in the CIP statement. "We need people to understand that if we can grow potatoes in extreme conditions like those on Mars, we can save lives on Earth."

Center officials said the research can help people on Earth as well, as it could shed new light on how to raise potatoes in barren areas.

According to CNBC, the team of scientists working on the research plans to duplicate the atmospheric conditions of Mars using soil from Peru's Pampas de La Joya desert in a laboratory. Scientists said that the soil from that desert is nearly identical to that found on the red planet.

"The increased levels of carbon dioxide will benefit the crop, whose yield is two to four times that of a regular grain crop under normal Earth conditions," the center said in its statement. "The Martian atmosphere is near 95 percent carbon dioxide."

Melissa Guzman, an astrobiologist with NASA's Ames Research Center in California, said the research will go a long way in helping humans learn what can be done agriculturally on another planet.

"The image of students building plant growth payloads and communicating virtually from labs in California, Lima, and Dubai is exciting for the future of planetary exploration and astrobiology," she said.

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Growing potatoes on Mars could be a reality one day if a research center's attempt to cultivate the crop in Martian-like conditions goes well.
growing, potatoes, mars, cultivate, crop
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2015-02-23
Wednesday, 23 Dec 2015 11:02 AM
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