US space agency NASA aspires to set up colonies in Mars in future and thus it becomes important to grow food right on Martian soil. Various plants are being tested by NASA scientists to find out the best ones which can eventually grow on the planet.
Farming on the red planet is far more difficult in comparison to growing crops on Earth. The Martian soil constitutes of crushed volcanic rock and is devoid of any organic material. Such a combination thus makes it completely impossible for plants to survive.
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and the Florida Tech Buzz Aldrin Space Institute are utilizing simulated ‘Martian gardens’ which in future can help astronauts survive during future manned missions to the red planet.
Further, this experiment will also help astronauts to garden in space and perform several experiments upon plant biology at the International Space Station (ISS). “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.
Researchers used Hawaiian soil for testing the amount of soil needed for simulating ‘Martian gardens’. This soil also came in handy for testing effective nutrients to be added to Martian soil; which in turn will help in enhancing crop yield on the red planet.
Further, they have revealed that lettuce can be grown on Mars-like soil simulant without using additional nutrients. However, such lettuces had weaker roots and a slower germination rate. Some plants which researchers are trying to grow during the test constitute radishes, Swiss chard, kale, Chinese cabbage, snow peas, dwarf peppers and tomatoes – selected menu for astronauts.