You read that right. It's totally possible to grow crops on Mars, Moon for future explorers, according to a new study. Scientists at Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands have produced crops on Mars and Moon soil simulant developed by NASA. The research supports the idea that it is possible to grow food on the Red Planet and the Moon to feed future settlers. Scientists also suggest that it is also possible to collect usable seed from crops grown on Mars and as well as on the Moon. As part of the study, scientists raised ten different crops, including garden cress, tomato, radish, rye, quinoa, spinach, chives, and peas.
Researchers then simulated the properties of Lunar and Martian regolith and "normal" soil -- potting soil from Earth -- as a control. Nine of the ten crops sown grew well and edible parts were harvested from them. Spinach was the exception, according to the study published in the journal Open Agriculture. Researchers said that total biomass production per tray was the highest for the Earth control and Mars soil simulant that differed significantly from Moon soil simulant. Seeds produced by three species radish, rye and garden cress were tested successfully for germination.
If humans are going to establish a base on the Moon or on Mars they will have to grow their own crops, researchers said. An option is to use Lunar and Martian regolith. These regoliths are not available for plant growth experiments, therefore NASA has developed regolith simulants, they said.
"We were thrilled when we saw the first tomatoes ever grown on Mars soil simulant turning red. It meant that the next step towards a sustainable closed agricultural ecosystem had been taken," said Wieger Wamelink from Wageningen University & Research.
Recently, NASA's Curiosity Mars rover found traces of ponds on the red planet.
(With PTI inputs)