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Growing potatoes on Mars could be key to colonizing the Red Planet

By Shawn Knight ยท 22 replies
Mar 9, 2017
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  1. One of the many hurdles involved in colonizing Mars – apart from actually getting there – is figuring out how to support life once we arrive. For example, will we able to grow vegetation in the harsh Mars climate?

    According to promising data from the International Potato Center (yeah, apparently that’s a thing), the answer may be yes… so long as you like potatoes.

    Known as CIP from its Spanish-language name Centro Internacional de la Papa, the Lima, Peru-based facility in February 2016 launched an experiment to grow potatoes in simulated Martian conditions.

    They planted a tuber in a specially constructed CubeSat contained environment developed with help from NASA. The hermetically sealed environment controlled temperature to simulate Mars’ days and nights and also mimicked the planet’s air pressure, carbon dioxide and oxygen levels.

    Preliminary results from the testing are positive.

    Julio Valdivia-Silva, a research associate with the SETI Institute who now works at UTEC in Lima, said that if the crops can tolerate the extreme conditions they are exposing them to in the CubeSat, they have a good chance to grow on Mars.

    They plan to do several rounds of experiments to find out which potato varieties do best but have concluded that humans on Mars missions that aim to grow potatoes will need to prepare soil with a loose structure and nutrients that allow tubers to obtain enough air and water to grow.

    Permalink to story.

     
  2. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 8,902   +3,113

    Learning how to get to Mars in less than a week is key to colonizing the Red Planet. Anything longer than a week is a risk not worth taking.
     
  3. Emexrulsier

    Emexrulsier TS Evangelist Posts: 527   +51

    This isn't going to happen in your life time or maybe never (unless you break Einsteins theory). To get to mars in a week you need to be travelling 832,193 mph. Best we have managed so far is around 36,000 mph so quite a way to go...
     
    Reehahs likes this.
  4. Black Slasher

    Black Slasher TS Rookie

    You need to Beliebe more in humanity. Never say never. Oh, wait...
     
  5. mbrowne5061

    mbrowne5061 TS Evangelist Posts: 507   +215

    What is the Oregon Trail and the Westward Expansion?

    People literally spent months walking across an entire continent and through one of the least forgiving mountain ranges just so they could colonize it - knowing full well that if they didn't walk quick enough they would freeze or starve as winter set in.

    We have Ion engines that can make the trip in less than 100 days if the planets are in a good position (happens every two years or so): or less time than it took to cross the North American continent on-foot. We don't normally use them for trips 'this close' because unless time is a critical factor, it is cheaper to get there with chemical engines.
     
  6. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 7,156   +2,379

    Assuming we could, why the hell would we want to colonise that planet in the 1st place? If we want to save our insignificant hides from inevitable extinction eventually, we have try get out of our solar system altogether. That ain't ever gonna happen in anyone's lifetime currently on this planet.
     
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2017
    Mc128k likes this.
  7. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 8,902   +3,113

    Yes and that is walking across a planet not the void of space. A planet where if they had to, they could stop and settle down anywhere to survive. If you are going to compare ideas, you have to compare all the conditions.
     
  8. mbrowne5061

    mbrowne5061 TS Evangelist Posts: 507   +215

    Have fun settling down 'wherever' in the middle of the North American continent. Aside from Denver and Salt Lake City, people didn't stop half-way for a reason, and that reason was a complete lack of potable water. Not enough to farm, not enough to drink. There were cases of some trying to stop half-way because winter had set-in in the Rockies, or would while they were still traversing them, but every spring, if they survived, they got moving again: either out west or back home, but moving nonetheless.

    But if you want to be that picky, what about the several month journey that Atlantic crossings used to be? People still made those, and you can't just 'stop wherever and settle'.

    As soon as we are able to make the journey at all, people are going to try to start to colonize. Some of those colonies will inevitably fail, but some will grow into cities. The first who go will need to contend with a journey that take months. Eventually the technologies will probably allow travel to occur in weeks or even days, then Mars will have its own immigration boom like America did during the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Sounds like you would be go on this second wave, but that would make it immigration not colonization.
     
  9. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 8,902   +3,113

    While you may have a few good points, this discussion is over because you are intentionally avoiding the main point behind mine which is way more valuable.
     
  10. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 2,919   +704

    No one is really going to say anything about Peru having an international potato center??? Really????

    Which one? Comparing all conditions? You have more chances on a self sustainable space ship, damn.
     
  11. mbrowne5061

    mbrowne5061 TS Evangelist Posts: 507   +215

    I'm honestly not sure what 'main point' of yours I'm deliberately avoiding. You said the journey wasn't worth the risk if it took more than a week. I pointed out that people have disagreed with that sentiment before, but that once it is down to just one week, significantly more will be willing to make the journey.

    The only thing I can think you might also be referring to is hazard of Mars itself, but even then, the only truly unique challenge will be the lack of air. We've conquered arid and cold - albeit not to these extremes before. If that was your point, you should have distinguished it better since you put it in terms of "longer than a week", which implies 'journey' not 'destination' in the context of colonization.

    Kibaruk with the hard hitting points. I'll bet that the potato is a staple crop for them: the potato did originate on the South American continent.
     
  12. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 8,902   +3,113

    Self Sustainable! OMG that is funny. They haven't made anything Self sustainable yet.
     
  13. Mc128k

    Mc128k TS Rookie

    Replicate the biosphere in a limited environment first. C'mon people, it's just bullshit and marketing, colonizing Mars is not a big deal. Also there aren't manu power sources, the sun is not the same there.
     
  14. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 12,086   +2,105

    Right. And a couple of hundred years from now, all us poor earth bound souls will be talking about, "the great Martian potato famine of 20xx or 21xx".

    Hey, it happened to the Irish, it could happen to humans on Mars as well.

    These articles are getting tedious, and I'm not one to normally complain about subject matter.

    From where I sit, some jacka** wakes up in the morning, and blurts out, "hey, I've solved the issue of food on Mars, let's grow potatoes". Five minutes, his or her mindless ramblings are big news.

    I have a great idea, let's grow potatoes on Mars, with the radioactive water we can get from Elon Musk's nuclear assault on the Martian polar caps. Then, maybe when the potatoes grow to about 200 pounds and become sentient, one of them will attack and eat Musk, and we won't have to listen to so much of this shi!.
     
    Makson, Reehahs and mbrowne5061 like this.
  15. Underdog

    Underdog TS Enthusiast Posts: 32   +17

    Hey people. I've grown potatoes myself in pretty good soil conditions and it ain't easy. If they are going to spend billions on going to Mars I think they will be more likely to just phone for a pizza.
     
  16. pbgben

    pbgben TS Rookie

    Time to get there is not much of an issue, as humans have had to deal with long journeys before. What needs to be done IMO is cheap, and reliable way to get supplies out there, something like a rocket every two weeks that contains essentials and perhaps some luxuries too. Won't have to be very big, just needs a good range and the ability to crash/land near the colony with contents intact.
     
  17. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 8,902   +3,113

    Not as long as it requires burning resources that can't be replaced.
     
  18. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 12,086   +2,105

    Cliff, you missed the point entirely. We could fuel the rocket engines with Martian potatoes, (fermented of course, to an outrageously high alcohol content). Ladle in a bit of liquid NO2, hold the cream cheese, and away you go........
     
    Last edited: Mar 13, 2017
    Makson likes this.
  19. hkhan1989

    hkhan1989 TS Member Posts: 22   +7

    I think someone has been watching too many movies...
    The Martian (2015) starring Matt Damon
     
  20. mbrowne5061

    mbrowne5061 TS Evangelist Posts: 507   +215

    You joke, but high-proof alcohol can be used (and has been used) as rocket fuel.
     
    captaincranky likes this.
  21. captaincranky

    captaincranky TechSpot Addict Posts: 12,086   +2,105

    I know right? I only improvised about the potatoes eating Musk. A man can hope and dream, can't he?
     
    Makson likes this.
  22. Makson

    Makson TS Enthusiast Posts: 87   +21

    Who in their wildest dreams decided that people could go to Mars because I have yet to read or hear a valid, common sense reason to go to Mars and waste $GAZILLIONS of dollars. Wouldn't it be a common sense idea to colonise all the vast deserts on this planet Earth first, go and grow potatoes in the Sahara or the Atacama deserts, there is no water there either, and if it can be sourced on Mars it is easier sourced on Earth by laying pipelines from the oceans with in-line desalination plants, run by fuel from potatoes, and make some vodka at the same time....oh crud, I have just visualised drunken Martians ..... hopefully free otherwise a taxman would have to be there..... and Elon Musk in a Tesla vehicle with a solar-panelled roof.
     
  23. mbrowne5061

    mbrowne5061 TS Evangelist Posts: 507   +215

    "Who in their wildest dreams decided that people could go to North America because I have yet to read or hear a valid, common sense reason to go to North America and waste GAZILLIONS of Sterling Pounds. Wouldn't it be a common sense idea to colonise all the vast deserts on Africa first, go and grow potatoes in the Sahara, there is no tea there either, and if it can be sourced on North America it is easier sourced on Europe by laying trade routes from the oceans with markets along the way, run by slave labor, and make some money at the same time....oh crud, I have just visualised tea drinking Britons ..... hopefully loyal to god & king otherwise a taxman would have to be there..... and King John II in a fancy Coach too."

    Why did we ever leave anywhere? We're a nomadic species, and always will be. Read through history, and you see we run into our greatest times of conflict when a country runs out of new places to wander to. But colonizing places that already have an established culture and population (and yes, the Sahara has an existing population and culture - nomadic camel herders) is problematic from a political and economic standpoint. Colonizing some place uninhabited has only a slightly higher economic cost, but a much lower political cost.

    Never mind that the money isn't "wasted" (implying "lost" due to be "sent to Mars"). The money is spent on earth, with earth businesses, producing earth products. It is the product that is sent to Mars, and that product was never intended to be re-sold, and this was accounted for when the contractors put in their bids and the project managers made their decisions.

    But I suspect that both of these arguments will be lost on you. I just wanted to point out that you are not the first person to vote 'stay' when someone else wanted to move somewhere that was both hostile and unsettled - and I'm sure you won't be the last.
     
    Tanstar likes this.

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