Can Potatoes Grow on Mars?

Photograph: CIP, via The Guardian

Photograph: CIP, via The Guardian

Growing potatoes on Mars may sound like a fantasy straight out of sci-fi drama The Martian – in which a marooned astronaut survives on the red planet by tending spuds. But it’s also the focus of an experiment by theUS space agency, Nasa, which is teaming up with the Peru-based International Potato Centre (CIP) to see if potatoes could be grown in such harsh conditions.

“The Martian is completely possible,” says astrobiologist Julio Valdivia-Silva, the principal scientist working on the experiment in Peru.

Valdivia-Silva says the technology is growing at an “exponential” rate just as efforts to learn more about Mars are gathering pace.

Valdivia-Silva and his team aim to replicate Mars-like conditions on earth using a dome to create the same atmosphere, and soil consisting of sands brought from the Pampas de la Joya desert, part of the Atacama desert in southern Peru and one of the world’s driest and most nutrient-poor ecosystems.

Read the rest on The Guardian.

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