Scientists are at it again with their attempts at growing food in outer space and this makes me happy for some odd reason. This time, POTATOES on Mars! …and not just any old potato, folks. Peruvian potatoes — of which there are at least 4,000 species — planted in the soil taken from the Atacama Dessert (word on the streets is that it has much in common with Martian soil).
“Both have extremely low levels of microorganisms and organic material as well as high levels of oxidizing chemical elements. For these reasons, the soils in Atacama have been used as analogous to Mars in research scenarios.”
The study, which began in January and projects initial results within tres meses — see what I just did there? — aims to generate food for possible future manned missions to the Red Planet.
In three phases, a group of scientists at NASA and Peru’s International Potato Center (CIP) will first “try to plant type LTVR (lowland tropic virus-resistant) potato clones”.
In phase two, they’ll try to freeze the fruits of their labor. “The trip from Earth to Mars can take about nine months, and during that time we must…[keep]…potatoes from germinating. So we want to freeze them and thaw them in order to learn if we can revive them and plant them in Martian soil at the right time,” CIP spokesperson Joel Ranck said.
In the third and final phase, CIP scientists will then attempt to grow ‘taters within CubeSats, a class of research spacecraft called nanosatellites, in outerspace.
“We want to explore how they grow within a controlled atmosphere. One of the most important features of Mars is its low atmospheric pressure, and in order to study how the plant reacts, we need a confined environment such as we can have with the CubeSat,” Julio Valdivia-Silva says.
“It is a very exciting idea, to think that potatoes could be one of the first meals of future Mars astronauts,” researcher in planetary science and astrobiology Melissa Guzman adds.
If by now you’re thinking you could go for some potatoes, here’s a really tasty recipe for garlic roasted potatoes; crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.
- How the Potato Changed the World (smithsonianmag.com)
- Photographer Caleb Charland Reimagines the “Potato Battery” Science Project (cookmixmingle.com)