All David Bowie-related jokes aside, farming on Mars, according to recent studies, is more plausible than previously thought.
A simulation at University of Sydney suggest that the Martian gravity’s influence on nutrient dynamics and root-feeding microbes would allow astronauts to actually grow vegetation on the planet’s soil. Frederico Maggi, the biogeochemist who conducted the simulation, has stated that he’s quite confident in the possibilities of farming on Mars.
Mars’ gravity is about one-third of what we enjoy here on the planet Earth. Not only does this allow better slam-dunk contests on the Red Planet, but it means that up to ninety percent less water would be needed for Mars’ soil to yield any fruit than in a greenhouse on our planet. The low gravity means that water will not flow down through the soil so quickly, which in turn means that the water, and the nitrogen the water absorbs, does not get lost in the soil so easily.
According to Maggi, this means that the nutriens you put into the soil will remain in the soil. In the simulation, bacteria thrived on all of the food now more readily available, and reached five to ten times their usual density.
Now extrapolate that to carrots and corn. You’d have eggplants the size of well-fed pitbulls. Tomatoes like basketballs. Squash comparable in length and density to a Ford Focus.
While most researchers have conducted similar simulations using artifical soil or hydroponics, NASA plant physiologist Raymond Wheeler believes that actually working with the soil which Mars has to offer would provide better waste degradation and less reliance on mechanical equipment, which often times breaks or does not function as originally designed.
Before you decide to abandon the rat race and retire to a nice little spread out in the cold recesses of space, however, keep in mind that NASA’s budgetary snags of late are going to keep a voyage to Mars on the back burner for quite a while. Meanwhile, the European Space Agency still plans on sending a manned voyage to Mars by mid-century – meaning, of course, space wine.
The future is now.