Elon Musk, owner of US-based SpaceX, predicts that the first manned mission in the Starship spacecraft could take place in 2026, although more realistic predictions also suggest that this is more feasible in the 1930s. In turn, scientists from all over the world are working on projects for houses that will allow us to live on Mars, protecting ourselves from radiation of the planet and its low oxygen level in its atmosphere. Another challenge is to find a key that can provide food for the future inhabitants of Mars.
Grow food on Mars
Since the beginning of the space race, astronauts have eaten dehydrated food, and for many years, freeze-dried food. Freeze-drying is a preservation method that allows you to preserve food without refrigeration and also to reduce its size. In the case of a mission to Mars, a trip requiring a long stay, the accumulation of a sufficient amount freeze-dried products it is not an option, nor is food delivery from Earth. Therefore, the only way to ensure that future Mars dwellers can feed themselves indefinitely is to grow their own food.
surface of Mars rich in some metals such as copper, cadmium or lead. At first it was not clear to researchers if food could be grown in this context, but scientists at Wageningen University tried to assess whether it is possible to grow crops in the soil of Mars. They did this using NASA’s simulations of the Martian soil. For this study, they took 10 different types of crops, where four of them gave positive results. This is the case with peas, tomatoes, radishes and rye. After examining the composition of the products, the researchers determined that none of the crops contain heavy metals that can be harmful to health. Despite the good results of the study, scientists say the results cannot be transmitted directly to Mars, as the energy requirements of crops or weather conditions can spoil them.
Gravity is a challenge
In sci-fi movies like The Martian, we’ve seen Matt Damon try to survive on the red planet by growing potatoes using his own feces as compost. This is not a brilliant sci-fi idea and is not completely ruled out either. One of the problems that can lead to the successful cultivation of food on Mars is gravity. Plants feel great in the gravitational conditions of the Earth, but if they had to do it in the conditions of Mars, perhaps they would undergo genetic changes.
Javier Medina, from the Center for Biological Research of Margarita Salas, assures that there are elements that can be transferred from the Earth or recreated in a greenhouse, such as “oxygen, atmospheric pressure, nutrients, soil with microorganisms, temperature, humidity …” However, the gravitational conditions remain as they are on every planet, and science will have to adapt to them. One idea of countering the gravitational conditions of Mars is to supply plants with red light. Red light is able to orient growth and activate a number of cellular processes that are canceled in the absence of gravity. Medina’s goal is “to understand what genetic mechanisms allow the plant to overcome gravitational stress.” Once the scientific community manages to decipher these genetic mechanisms are It will be possible to create a plant life support program on Mars, which is expected to be implemented when future space missions are aimed at more or less extended stays on the red planet.