You may be able to enjoy some hot chips with the Martians
First things first — to enjoy some hot chips with the Martians you need to be able to grow potatoes on Mars. And current experiments show this is possible.
The International Potato Center (CIP) launched a series of experiments to discover if potatoes can grow under Mars atmospheric conditions and thereby prove they are also able to grow in extreme climates on Earth.
On St Valentine’s Day last year a potato tuber was planted in a specially constructed CubeSat contained environment built by engineers from University of Engineering and Technology (UTEC) in Lima, based on designs and advice provided by NASA.
The CubeSat houses a container holding soil and the tuber. Inside this hermetically sealed environment the CubeSat delivers nutrient-rich water, controls the temperature for Mars day and night conditions and mimics Mars air pressure, oxygen and carbon dioxide levels. Sensors constantly monitor these conditions and live streaming cameras record the soil in anticipation of the potato sprouting. And the potatoes are growing.
The Potatoes on Mars project was conceived by CIP to understand how potatoes survive in the extreme conditions. CIP has bred potato clones that tolerate conditions such as soil salinity and drought, which not only look promising for Mars but also for marginal areas on Earth that could be adversely affected by climate change.
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