Potatoes for Mars #Mars #NASA #space #science

A few of the many potato varieties

A few of the many potato varieties

Who knew there’s an International Potato Center? There is – in Peru. They’re teaming with NASA to grow potatoes in soil taken from the Atacama Desert. Peru has 4,000 varieties of potatoes to choose from.

[Like Mars, Atacama soil has] extremely low levels of microorganisms and organic material as well as high levels of oxidizing chemical elements. For these reasons, the soils in Atacama have been used as analogous to Mars in research scenarios.

They’ll freeze the potatoes they grow and try to revive them. Is it possible The Martian could have revived his frozen potatoes? That would have made life on Mars a lot more comfortable.

Eventually, NASA wants to grow potatoes in zero gravity, in an enclosed atmosphere inside a CubeSat in space. Then, someday, in an enclosed greenhouse on Mars.

Growing potatoes for Mars will teach us about feeding people on Earth, too.

We see the science, educational, and humanitarian goals as being intertwined. In the process of working together toward establishing a community on Mars, our students will also be establishing a community on Earth.

Science fiction has settled on the potato for Mars colonists. I’d like to see NASA confirm that guess.

GLORY Ebook 300 dpiEat like a Martian – at least, like a scifi Martian:

fish supper
mealworm snack
cassava
practice for Mars on Earth
Banana beer from Born on Mars
And Liz, in Glory on Mars, tries to make bhang, though she doesn’t have all the ingredients.

Thanks to scientificamerican.com, Eureka Alert eurekalert.org, and other outlets.

 

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10 thoughts on “Potatoes for Mars #Mars #NASA #space #science

  1. Are those sweet potatoes or Irish potatoes? …. There are so many varieties of both that it’s difficult to tell from the photo, though sweet potatoes would make the most sense because their foliage is edible.

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    • Which variety to take is one thing NASA hopes to figure out – probably a couple varieties I would think, in case one doesn’t turn out well. Sweet potatoes would be quite different from Peruvian potatoes, so it might be smart to have some of each.

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      • As I recall, when they ran the biosphere tests they used sweet potatoes. I, personally, prefer sweet potatoes because the entire plant is edible. My current favorite variety is what the local market calls ‘Korean’ (the market is owned by Koreans, so I don’t know if this is a geographic name, or their name for their own produce.) Regardless, the skins are sort of purple and the meat is greenish – doesn’t look as appetizing as the golden-orange meat we traditionally think of, but tastes wonderful and the leaves are nearly indistinguishable from spinach.

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            • Joining fish-farming (I gave my Mars colonists tilapia) with gardening makes sense. In my novel, colonists grow gardens in treated Martian soil to avoid the equipment needed for hydroponics – pumps and tubing and such – I try to make a point that hauling stuff to Mars is expensive so technology is limited to what’s essential – and there’s still a lot of that! Water from fish tanks is still used to water the plants, and clean make-up water added to the ponds. I think any plant could be grown hydroponically.

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              • I have the idea for a futuristic novel that I’ve been toying with for a while – if I ever get around to writing it, there will probably be tilapia, etc. involved. However, for Mars, seeds

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                    • Wonderful! Are you a member of The Cat Writers’ Association? I just heard about them on NPR today – I understand there is great controversy over whether cats should talk or only meow in cat-literature! I sent a cat to Mars in Glory on Mars and he only meows – he’s a minor character but provides an important clue to an existential dilemma (the story is straight scifi). My own tabby is the cover-model for the book – sorry, got wound up over cats. 🙂

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