Farming on Mars….Really?

Teresa Olson
By Teresa Olson November 14, 2017 11:56

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We’re not sure who actually discovered it, but people have been watching this planet since before the year 1500.  I’ve read that Mars is a terrestrial planet, meaning it is “of, on, or relating to the earth”, but in many ways I beg to differ.  Here are three examples:

  • It has a surface temperature that ranges from -238 to -4 degrees Fahrenheit.  And we thought winters in the Midwest were bad!
  • A year on Mars is 687 days compared to 365 days on earth.  In those terms that would make me…..well….younger!
  • Martian surface gravity is only 37% of the Earth’s.  That certainly would help a person “jump” out of bed in the morning!

But despite these and other differences, a Utah State University botanist by the name of Bruce Bugbee has been working with NASA to develop closed systems for growing plants aboard space shuttles and on the International Space Station for over 30 years.  Considering a trip to Mars and back takes about 4 years, Bugbee says, “To be efficient, inhabitants need to eat local, which means we need to find a way to produce food on Mars from recycled wastes.”

Many challenges like insufficient water and nutrients, cosmic radiation, lack of atmosphere, and low levels of light are unique to the space environment, but Bugbee thinks soybeans show great promise for Mars because of the diversity of products that can be made from them.

 

Your Mars diet will not be very diversified (no fruits or nuts from trees, and no animal products), and the other conditions of this planet may not convince you that this would be a great place to live.  What then are the benefits to exploring deep space along with projects like these?

 

There are actually secondary values to this work that are benefiting us on earth today.  It was NASA technology that inspired people to think about developing indoor agriculture as well as growing plants without sunlight, and that’s also the case with sensing technology in drones used to monitor plant health.  Also, a better understanding of root densities that are different in space greenhouses has helped with nitrogen efficiency improvement and the timing of pesticide application.

 

There have been more than forty missions to Mars throughout history and not all of them were a success.  2020 is slated to be a big Mars exploration year because of the location of Mars relative to the Earth.  Prime launch windows (where the least amount of power is required to travel between the two planets) only open up every 26 months.

 

I guess we need to expand our horizons in order to continue the advancement of agricultural practices-to the ends of the earth and beyond.

 

-Terry Olson, Titan Outlet Store Team

 

Resources:

https://space-facts.com/mars/

http://www.agriculture.com/technology/crop-management/farming-in-space

2020 is set to be the biggest year yet for Mars exploration

Teresa Olson
By Teresa Olson November 14, 2017 11:56
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2 Comments

  1. MattT November 16, 09:56

    Call me a conservative skeptic, but I’m sick of the taxpayers’ dollars going to Mars missions! We’ve gained some secondary technologies and information from space exploration, I’ll grant that. But sending rockets just to become expensive scrap metal on the Red Planet doesn’t make economic or societal sense to me.

    Reply to this comment
    • Teresa Olson Author November 17, 15:09

      I understand your position, and thank you for giving us your input. Quite frankly, I suspect there are many things that taxpayer dollars get wasted on. If we were privy to all of that information, we might be aghast.
      -Terry Olson, Titan Outlet Store Team

      Reply to this comment
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