NASA is hoping to spring a number of man-made Martian Gardens on the Red Planet as the astronaut food problem is growing more urgent with each outer space travel.
Mars, or the Red Planet, received its popular nickname based on the planet’s surface which is covered with regolith, better known as volcanic rock. Besides sporting an infertile soil that doesn’t allow the growth of any organic matter, the planet is also characterized by its toxic chemical emissions.
As such, it is hard to believe that man can grow anything on Mars, but scientists will tend to disagree. As longer space missions are in the making with man hoping to prolong our stay in space, the problem of alimentation has been growing exponentially bigger. In the face of the problem and in the hopes of saving their future projects, scientists have initiated a simulation program that means to recreate the Martian soil so as to develop a viable food source that could be made available to all future space explorers.
The so -called “Martian gardens” were set up at the Kennedy Space Center and mark a collaboration between NASA and the Florida Tech Buzz Aldrin Space Institute. The “Martian” matter used in the gardening experiment was gathered from Hawaii and modified in accordance to the Martian detected parameters of soil and terrain. The Hawaiian soil was used in order to determine the crops’ requirements for an optimal growth.
The first of many more to come, this initial study was conducted by Florida Tech’s Chemical Ecology professor Brooke Wheeler who set out to grow lettuce plants under three different conditions and then compare the results. The plants were grown under two different conditions. The first two plants were grown in simulant, with the second plant also receiving additional nutrients besides the base soil, while the third and last plant was grown in potting soil.
The results showed no difference in taste between the plants, with the Mars-like soil stimulant plant showing only an outwards appearance discrepancy as its roots were weaker when compared to its potting soil relatives. Another difference would be in the germination rate, as the Mars soil plants evolved at a slower rate than their terrestrial counterparts.
The favorable results have raised great hope and have prompted researchers to continue the Martian garden project and to even try growing new crops the likes of radish, tomatoes, dwarf peppers or kale, to name just a few.
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