Apparently, the recently released The Martian (spoiler alert – probably nothing major to story but I haven’t seen it yet) shows the main character surviving stranded on Mars on potatoes he has managed to grow in the hostile Mars soil. The challenge of surviving on Mars has piqued some interest in how humans will survive when planned manned missions to Mars eventually happen.
It seems NASA is well ahead. This article from the Live Science website draws together some insights from NASA’s ‘Greenhouses for Mars‘ and other related research of the challenges faced (lack of nutrients and water-holding capacity of the soil, harmful elements in the soil, lack of atmosphere, temperature problems and reduced gravity) and findings from simulations (apparently tomatoes grow well in simulated Martian soil).
Space science from the dawn of the space race to the building of ISS has made big contributions to life on earth. Something as handy as a cordless drill, pens that write upside down and velcro (to name a few) have been developed due to the need to find a solution to a unique problem that adventuring into space presents.
More interest in such ideas as how to feed ourselves outside the comforts of earth can only improve our chances of finding novel ‘workarounds’ to our earth-based food dilemmas.