NASA scientists are using simulated ‘Martian gardens’ to learn which plants astronauts might be able to grow during future manned missions to the red planet. One major challenge for human journey to Mars will be determining how to pack enough food for astronauts for these kinds of extended missions.
Simulated “Martian gardens,” developed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre and the Florida Tech Buzz Aldrin Space Institute, are helping researchers overcome food production challenges associated with Mars’ barren landscape. Farming on the red planet is much different from growing crops on Earth. Martian soil consists of crushed volcanic rock with no organic material, making it nearly impossible for plant life to survive, NASA said.
“We are using advances in science to learn about increasing plant production to supplement astronauts’ diets,” said Trent Smith, project manager for the Vegetable Production System (Veggie) experiment at NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre. The experiment allows astronauts to garden in space and conduct experiments on plant biology on the International Space Station (ISS), ‘Space.com’ reported.
The soil being used in the “Martian garden” was collected from Hawaii and chosen because it simulates the kind of soil found on Mars. The researchers used this Hawaiian soil to test how much soil should be used, and which nutrients should be added to the soil, for the various crops to achieve optimal growth.
Their experiment showed that the lettuce grown in the Mars-like soil simulant with no added nutrients tasted the same but had weaker roots and a slower germination rate.