Good News: Martian Colonists Will Be Able To Eat Whatever Vegetables They Want - Alternative View
Good News: Martian Colonists Will Be Able To Eat Whatever Vegetables They Want - Alternative View

Video: Good News: Martian Colonists Will Be Able To Eat Whatever Vegetables They Want - Alternative View

Video: Good News: Martian Colonists Will Be Able To Eat Whatever Vegetables They Want - Alternative View
Video: New educational episode | Groovy the Martian teaches Phoebe to eat healthy fruits and vegetables 2023, April

If you promise to send the first colonizers to Mars by 2026, be prepared to face skepticism. This is exactly what the Dutch undertaking Bas Lansdorp has been trying to cope with since he brought the Mars One project to the public in 2012. Over the past four years, everything from the project's schedule and technical and financial feasibility to ethics has come under criticism from scientists, engineers and people in the aerospace industry.

Nevertheless, Lansdorp and his organization continue to stand their ground, stating that they intend to overcome all difficulties in the process of sending people one way to the Red Planet. And in its latest statement, Mars One announced that it had found the answer to the question of concern to all: what will its settlers eat. In an experiment that could very well be included in the movie The Martian, Mars One completed tests of different crops in simulated Martian soil to see which ones might grow on Mars.

The greenhouse in which the experiments were carried out is located in the Dutch city of Nergen. The experiments took place in 2013 and 2015 and included simulators of lunar and Martian soil provided by NASA, along with Earth's soil as a control group.

Using them, a group of ecologists and cultural researchers at Wageningen University tested different types of seeds to see which ones would grow in lunar and Martian environments. These included rye, radish, watercress, and pea seeds. Tomatoes and potatoes were also added earlier this year.


Here is what Dr. Wiger Weimlink, ecologist and head of experiments, said:

“We started the first experiment in 2013 (published in Plos One in 2014) to investigate whether it is possible to grow plants in simulated Martian and lunar soil. We assume these plants will be grown indoors as conditions on Mars and the moon are very harsh, cold, have no atmosphere and are exposed to radiation from space. In the first experiment, there were few crops, mostly wild plants and clover (to bind nitrogen from the atmosphere and fertilize the soil)."

With the confirmation that the seeds germinated in the simulated soil after the first year, the scientists decided to test whether the seeds from that crop could germinate in the same soil to create another crop. The results were very encouraging. In all four cases, the seeds germinated well in the Martian and lunar soil.

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“We weren't hoping for much,” Weimlink says, “so we were surprised that the plants did pretty well on the simulated Martian soil, and sometimes even better than on our nutrient-rich control soil on Earth. There were also problems: it was difficult to keep the soil moist, and the vegetables grown on the Martian soil were not very good, the amount of biomass was low."

Although they did not grow as well as in the control group grown on earth soil, they managed to be grown over and over again. This is important because it means that any crop on Mars will have a full life cycle. By being able to grow crops, replant seeds, and grow crops again, Martians will be able to refuse to deliver new seeds for each harvest cycle and will be independent of the Earth in the process of growing food.

In 2015, they conducted a second experiment. This time, after planting the seeds in the simulated soil, they added organic matter to simulate the addition of organic waste from the previous crop cycle. And every Friday, when the experiments started, they added a nutrient solution to mimic the nutrients obtained from feces and urine (which the future Martians will have in abundance).

Again, the results were encouraging. Crops grew again and additives or organic matter increased the water holding capacity of the soil. Weimlink and his team were able to harvest a bountiful harvest of dozens of crops used in the experiment, providing the Martians with radishes, tomatoes and peas. The only crop that failed was spinach.

This year the scientists' experiments will be devoted to the problem of food safety. Any ecologist knows that plants extract minerals from the environment. And tests have shown that the soils of the Moon and Mars contain heavy metals and toxic substances - arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead and iron (which makes Mars red). Weimlink describes this process as follows:


“We took ten cultures again, but a few others; we included green beans and potatoes (which Mark Watney loved so much). Organic matter was also added to mimic the addition of plant parts that were not eaten during the previous growth cycle. They also added liquid manure to simulate human feces … We know that simulants of Martian and lunar soil contain heavy metals like lead, copper, mercury and chromium. Plants don't care, but they can poison people. It was necessary to check whether it was safe to eat them at all."

Once again, the results were encouraging. In all cases, the crops showed that the concentrations of the metals they contained were within the acceptable range for humans and safe for human consumption. In some cases, metal concentrations were even lower than expected.

“Now we have tested four species collected last year, and it turned out that the fruits, fortunately, do not have any harmful amounts of metals, so they can be safely eaten,” Weimlink said. “We will continue to do this so that the FDA can analyze fresh fruits and vegetables, because we analyzed the dried material. Moreover, we will also study the content of large molecules like vitamins, flavonoids (for taste) and alkaloids (for toxic components)."

In addition, Wageningen's team hopes to test all ten crops grown to ensure that whatever grows in Martian soil is safe to eat. To this end, Wageningen University has created a crowdfunding campaign to fund its ongoing experiments. With the support of society, they hope to show that future generations can support themselves on Mars and not worry about possible poisoning with arsenic and lead.

As an incentive, donors will receive various gifts: samples of soil simulators used in the experiment, or the main prize - a dinner from the harvested crop, which will go to people who donated 500 euros or more. The first "Martian dinner" will, of course, have potatoes.

Looking ahead, Weimlink and colleagues also hope to experiment with crops that do not rely on the seed-to-harvest cycle and are not harvested annually. Among them are fruit trees - apples, cherries, strawberries. Additionally, Weimlink has expressed interest in cultivating lupine seeds to replace meat in the Martian diet.

It's not just Mars One and Wageningen University who are eager to learn what can be grown on Mars or other planets. Over the years, NASA has also been conducting its own tests to see what crops can be grown on Mars. The agency's latest experiment involves growing potatoes in Peruvian soil samples.

Naturally, such experiments not only solve the problems associated with the Mars One plan. They are part of a much broader effort to tackle the challenges of resuming the era of great space exploration and discovery.


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