A new experiment has vindicated poor Mark Watney: Potatoes can grow on Mars, a good sign for future colonizers (and Elon Musk) of the Martian planet.
The International Potato Center (CIP) announced it successfully grew potatoes in a synthetic soil, a study meant to mimic the conditions of our red neighbor. Scientists apparently chose potatoes because the food is considering a “life support crop.” Potatoes are also known for adapting well to extreme environments.
The experiment was conducted inside of a CubeSat, a container designed to simulate Mars’s tough environment, where temperatures and pressure are much lower compared to Earth. Scientists say that successfully growing potatoes in Mars-like conditions means future colonizers may not need to build a complex greenhouse to simulate warm conditions on Earth.
It also means astronauts may not have to rely solely on eating freeze-dried space food. According to NASA’s Advanced Food Technology Project, Mars colonizers would need over 7,000 pounds of food (mostly fruits and vegetables) to survive the trip—and that’s just in the short term. But being able to grow potatoes, and many other important crops, means astronauts may not need to pack quite as much.
Which potato varieties do best?
Scientists are going to conduct further studies to figure out which potato varieties do best in Mars-like conditions, which also begs the question: Do these Mars potatoes taste any good?
And how long until a restaurant here on Earth begins offering Mars potatoes on its menu?