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NASA Mars

Now NASA Wants To Grow Potatoes On Mars For Real (examiner.com) 95

MarkWhittington writes: In the hit movie, "The Martian", NASA astronaut Mark Watney survives by planting potatoes in one of the modules of the Mars base who is stranded at. The plot device received a great deal of praise from space agriculture experts, according to a recent story in Popular Mechanics. Of course, future space farmers would be advised to grow a variety of crops in order to diversify their diet, not an option for Watney. In any case, according to a story in ZME Science, NASA is partnering with Peru's International Potato Center (CIP) to do what Watney did and grow potatoes on Mars.
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Now NASA Wants To Grow Potatoes On Mars For Real

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  • Call me when you find a plant that can thrive on 600 Pascals of atmospheric pressure.
    • Re:Right (Score:5, Informative)

      by pushing-robot ( 1037830 ) on Wednesday December 23, 2015 @08:11PM (#51175833)

      You wouldn't grow plants in the open, not just due to (the lack of) atmospheric pressure but because you'd lose valuable water invested in them.

      For the foreseeable future, any farms on Mars would be grown indoors in a densely stacked hydroponics or aeroponics environment.

      • Not only would that be the easiest way to grow them, it would make harvesting considerably easier because you wouldn't even need a shovel to get at your crop.
      • Duh you would obviously plant in one of the modules of the Mars base who is stranded at
      • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *

        any farms on Mars would be grown indoors in a densely stacked hydroponics or aeroponics environment.

        Which means you could grow just about anything you wanted, not only potatoes :)

    • by anzha ( 138288 )
      What's your phone number? Well, its a lichen [astrobio.net], not a plant, so you can keep your number.
    • by Nutria ( 679911 )

      I think NASA has officially jumped the shark.

      • Nasa currently doesn't have any goals. They keep suggesting stuff but the politicians are not listening.
        • by Nutria ( 679911 )

          but the politicians are not listening

          Because NASA keeps on suggesting idiotic stuff. Like growing potatoes on Mars.

          • Because NASA keeps on suggesting idiotic stuff. Like growing potatoes on Mars.

            You do realize that growing potatoes in a human habitat in orbit and growing potatoes in a human habitat on Mars are closely related problems, very closely related? Having astronauts on long endurance missions grow some of their own food is not only cost effective but incredibly good for morale.

            • by Nutria ( 679911 )

              Take the Atacama Desert and make it 10,000x less suitable to life. That's Mars.

              IOW, there aren't going to be any human habitats on Mars.

              • So, kind of like McMurdo Station in Antarctica?
              • Take the Atacama Desert and make it 10,000x less suitable to life. That's Mars. IOW, there aren't going to be any human habitats on Mars.

                You don't seem to understand what a human habitat is. The international space station is a human habitat and it is in an even more hostile environment than mars. People have been living in that particular habitat for 15+ years.

                • by Nutria ( 679911 )

                  The international space station is a human habitat and it is in an even more hostile environment than mars.

                  You're either (1) joking, (2) delusional, or (3) didn't make yourself clear.

                  People have been living in that particular habitat for 15+ years.

                  It's -- on average -- 250 miles away, not 140 million miles away. So, take the $100 billion (*not* including the $50 billion in Shuttle launches) cost of the ISS and multiply it by a jillion.

                  That's what the Mars Colony would cost, and it's why there will never be a Mars Colony until some miraculous new compact power source can be invented.

                  • The international space station is a human habitat and it is in an even more hostile environment than mars.

                    You're either (1) joking, (2) delusional, or (3) didn't make yourself clear.

                    You forgot option (4). You erroneously conflate relative ease of visiting and supply with a hostile environment.

                    People have been living in that particular habitat for 15+ years.

                    It's -- on average -- 250 miles away, not 140 million miles away.

                    Are you replying to the correct individual? I'm the one who wrote: "You do realize that growing potatoes in a human habitat in orbit and growing potatoes in a human habitat on Mars are closely related problems, very closely related? Having astronauts on long endurance missions grow some of their own food is not only cost effective but incredibly good for morale."

                    So, take the $100 billion (*not* including the $50 billion in Shuttle launches) cost of the ISS and multiply it by a jillion.

                    That's what the Mars Colony would cost, and it's why there will never be a Mars Colony until some miraculous new compact power source can be invented.

                    Thank you for confirming that you d

                    • by Nutria ( 679911 )

                      "You do realize that growing potatoes in a human habitat in orbit and growing potatoes in a human habitat on Mars are closely related problems, very closely related?

                      How? One is a microgravity and the other is 38% of Earth gravity.

                      Having astronauts on long endurance missions grow some of their own food is not only cost effective but incredibly good for morale.

                      We can agree on that.

                      Thank you for confirming that you do not know what a "human habitat" is. Hint: Its not a colony.

                      People on Mars would have to live somewhere. It would be in... a habitat!!!

                    • "You do realize that growing potatoes in a human habitat in orbit and growing potatoes in a human habitat on Mars are closely related problems, very closely related?

                      How? One is a microgravity and the other is 38% of Earth gravity.

                      Gravity is not the main problem. NASA is focusing on aeroponics approaches that are compatible with micro and zero g.

                      Thank you for confirming that you do not know what a "human habitat" is. Hint: Its not a colony.

                      People on Mars would have to live somewhere. It would be in... a habitat!!!

                      Apparently a simpler clue is needed: You are the only one talking about a colony in this conversation.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 23, 2015 @07:53PM (#51175771)

    Potatoes and Tomatoes might be a really good idea for space/mars...I didn't see the movie, so forgive if its obvious already...

    They can be continuously harvested for some time. When we do it on earth, we generally are lazy and don't use them to their potential; we plant wait until fruit appears and harvest.. What's special about growing in confined controllable space is, they can be grown vertically in a box, and continuously produce new edible parts...
    Example, Potato:
    You start with a box full of dirt say 6-12" deep/walls... Plant potato after the plant gets a good start, add 6" to the box, and put more dirt against the stock.. Keep doing this as time goes by... You can eventually harvest the potatos from the bottom run, as new potatoes grow closer to surface... I'm not sure how long this can go for(potentially a lot time) but you can get multiple crops from a single plant(This is what you'd want to genetically modify if necessary, simply direct it to stay alive/keep producing)..

    Tomatos are grown in massive greenhouses today and they can survive years.. They simply keep folding/rolling up the tomato vine slowly through the months in a controlled environment.. New Tomatoes flower at the top of the vine, ripe harvested from bottom.

    More importantly still might be those special edibles that grow like a weed and ALL parts are edible/nutritious(Unlike potatos and tomatos) edible roots, stems, leaf, fruit...

    http://old.seattletimes.com/AB... [seattletimes.com]

  • by burtosis ( 1124179 ) on Wednesday December 23, 2015 @07:55PM (#51175781)
    While I'm sure NASA wants to grow potatoes on Mars, they are simply settling for growing them in carefully simulated soils. There are lots of technical challenges and it's interesting science. However, the title is somewhat misleading as there are no actual plans to grow them on Mars.
    • Only stupid people grow plants in dirt if they have a limited water and nutrient supply, not to mention limited greenhouse space. Dirt, stupid, dirt stupid!
    • Far more interesting to me than the soil would be the atmosphere, temperature, and greater distance from the sun.

      I'd be fine with hydroponics, if we can get them to work without having to run nuclear power plants to insolate them.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    We have to GET to Mars first...
  • hog futures (Score:4, Funny)

    by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Wednesday December 23, 2015 @08:22PM (#51175871) Journal

    Wake me up when they can grow bacon on Mars.

  • by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968.gmail@com> on Wednesday December 23, 2015 @08:43PM (#51175991) Journal
    After all the three sisters [almanac.com] have been planted together for centuries for how well they work in harmony and the beans adding nitrogen to the soil and the squash keeping the roots cool and moist with their leaves would be useful in a Martian greenhouse. Seems like the most logical choice while providing a nice variety to the Martian farmers.
    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by pi_rules ( 123171 )

      The beans don't actually add nitrogen to the soil. Legumes are used for this because they form a symbiotic relationship with a bacteria. The bacteria is the one that fixes atmospheric nitrogen into the type ready for plant uptake.

    • Thanks for the link, I've been meaning to look up companion planting and now I have a place to start.
      • You are most welcome. many of us in the south grow the three sisters and the nice thing is that you can do many variations, like replacing half the bean plants with tomato. They grow really great together and when planting season is over they leave the soil better than they found it, great for beginners as well.
    • There are probably lots of companion guilds they could choose, but perhaps they're trying to walk before flying.

    • Silly Earthling! Mars does not have plentiful gaseous nitrogen, so those nitrogen-fixing symbiotes are useless. Martian farmers will be adding nitrogen fertilizer directly to the soil for the foreseeable future.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Wednesday December 23, 2015 @09:10PM (#51176107) Journal
    The soil on Earth has been washed by rain for millions of years and almost all the water soluble salts have been dissolved and transported to the ocean by the rivers. Without the rain cycle the martian soil is likely to contain very heavy doses of heavy and toxic metals, lots of salts. The martian Whatney would have died of heavy metal poisoning if he was eating the potatoes without poetic license and fiction reality adjustment. Just saying.
    • Indications of large bodies of surface water should have resulted in plenty of rain. You would have had meteorite dust added later, but with the low air pressure that should not have traveled far.
      • by plopez ( 54068 )

        But also wind erosion freeing metals from rock out cropping. So who the hell knows.

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      Maybe not. A bit of treatment may be able to get the poisons out. There are quite a few toxic things that people have historically eaten after a bit of bashing, washing, mixing in ashes and boiling.
      So that's part of the challenge. What's getting in and what do we need to do to get it out? What can be done with the stuff available - for instance it looks like you can even condense freaking formaldyhde out of the atmosphere there so something to react with the heavy metals to precipitate them out may be a
  • Who could reasonably claim to be a "space agriculture expert"? An astronaut who grew a couple plants for a week in orbit? TFA only mentions researchers, who don't actually have a great deal of praise for the idea of growing potatoes. It seems the summary could have used an RTFA expert.
  • Why NASA is fucking up with us??? Just month ago they wouldn't take water samples to know if there's life scared by contamination risks. But now they wanna grow shit up there??? Make sense please!!!
  • Mash means Smash (potatoes)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

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