Making Mars Fit For Farming

Although man has achieved so much in making technology that’s capable of bringing humans outside of our planet and into another celestial body, it seems like we haven’t cracked the code yet when it comes to making sure these astronauts are given healthy and tasty snacks to munch while traveling in the dead of space.

Sure, there’s food, but they’re often more focused on what important nutrients it can give to the astronaut, rather than actually tasting like real Earth food. Just ask Matt Damon’s character in The Martian, who literally had to plant potatoes in Mars just so he could eat something different. And much like Damon literally using his botanist smarts to find out the exact science of growing vegetables on Mars, scientists are also at work trying to make the idea of greens on the red planet possible. Only, unlike in the movie reels, scientists may have finally cracked the code in real life.

Greens on the red planet

The scientists believe farming on Mars is possible by way of using sheets of material that can turn the barren planet’s cold surface into one suitable for growing crops. According to the scientists, the “aerogel” sheets work by mimicking the greenhouse effect found in our own planet, potentially trapping energy from the sun with gasses such as carbon dioxide. This would then make the ground warmer and conducive enough to keep plants alive.

 “If we want to make sustainable habitats on another planet using present-day technology, this approach could be very useful. It’s completely scalable, so the area covered could be anywhere from a few square meters to large regions of the planet,” said Robin Wordsworth, one of the people from Harvard University behind the project.

Of course, the aerogel itself isn’t enough to fully “terra-form” Mars, as previous ideas have suggested. It’s not enough to solve all of the existing problems as well. However, the fact that life would only grow beneath the sheets means that the possibility of contaminating the rest of the planet would be significantly decreased. It’s a definite step in the right direction as well.

“In the longer term it could be used in support of human exploration missions, and eventually to produce long-lived habitats that you would aim to make as self-sustaining as possible,” Wordsworth continued.

Mars Scientists have confirmed that there is methane gas on Mars. Pictured: Mars' own Grand Canyon, Valles Marineris, is shown on the surface of the planet in this composite image made aboard NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft. The image was taken from a video featuring high-resolution images from Arizona State University's Thermal Emission Imaging System multi-band camera on board the spacecraft. The mosaic was then colored to approximate how Mars would look to the human eye. Getty Images/NASA/Arizona State University