It can take seven months or more to go to Mars. NASA can send supplies to the International Space Station if needed, but the same is not true for distant planets. Instead, astronauts who spend any time on Mars will have to rely on what is known as in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) – all around to replace objects brought from Earth. This includes food, which would eventually have to be grown there, to support any long-term residents. Instead of bags of manure in the spacecraft, researchers are trying to figure out what to do on the ground, i.e. Martian soil.
Thanks to NASA’s Rovers and Landers, scientists know about the pH and mineral makeup of the planet’s soil, known as the regolith. Mars derives its red color from the oxidation of rocks, regoliths and dust. Under the dust is NASA, which according to NASA has elements of iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium and more. But their presence is not enough to ensure that plants can thrive there. Nutrients may not be present in a usable, or bioavailable, form. Some levels may be toxic.
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Some studies have shown that it is theoretically possible to grow plants in replica Martian soil, but there are no large enough specimens of genuine Martian regoliths to be certain. Since there is no way to test farming on Mars itself, scientists try to replicate the conditions on Earth. Researchers at the Florida Institute of Technology recently tried to cultivate lettuce, a weed and Arabidopsis thaliana, a weed and Lactuca sativa, in a trio of Martian regolith simulants. These are mixtures of simulant artificial and natural materials that mimic the surface of Mars like basalt. Scientists found that neither plant is planted in synthetic soil without the inclusion of complementary nutrients.
The researchers wrote in the study, “These findings underscore that ISRU food solutions are likely to be at a lower technical readiness level than before.” For example, it is believed that the regolith is uniform throughout the planet. Andrew Palmer, associate professor of ocean engineering and oceanography, told Florida Tech News, “Our strategy was instead of saying that these plants grow plants, that means we can grow plants everywhere on Mars, telling us that Needs that Mars is a diverse planet. “
In another new study, also published in Icarus, researchers break down the preparations for five new types of Mars simulants. Laura Fakel, a doctoral candidate at Athens at the University of Georgia and her colleagues, specifically designed mixtures with characteristics of the Mars regolith that can make it difficult for plants to grow. T soils may have high salinity or low levels of organic matter. In such situations future Mars inhabitants may need to add other minerals and components to their gardens before planting. “Specific types of bacteria and fungi are known to be beneficial for plants and may be able to support them in stress situations,” Fackrell told TNW.
To test the fake Mars dirt, Fakerrell tried to grow several plants, including a moth bean. He said there is a better catch with less water than other options, “but they are not necessarily healthy,” Fackrell told Science News.
This would be the year before humans arrived on Mars, but in the meantime, research about plants growing in difficult environments could translate to Earth, where temperatures are rising. Fackrell studied germs that live in hot springs. “Everything we’ve learned about farming on Mars can help with farming in challenging environments on Earth that helps us build a sustainable future,” she told Florida News.
For more Mars news, read how there was once a salty lake on the red planet, and a study revealed lakes below the surface of Mars.