Plants can be grown on Mars
Humans’ growing curiosity in what lies beyond the stars has led to some major advancements in space exploration. Mankind has taken its first steps on the moon. Satellites are orbiting Earth as we speak. Now the latest intergalactic development is turning a lot greener.
Germany’s Aerospace Centre DLR announced on Thursday, April 5 that their Antarctic Greenhouse has successfully harvested their first crops. The Greenhouse, an experimental project, is expected to yield 10 pounds of vegetables every week. According to Popular Science, DLR’s first crops include “eight pounds of salad greens, 18 cucumbers, and 70 radishes.” The facility also houses strawberry plants, bell pepper plants and a variety of herbs.
The Greenhouse is part of the EDEN ISS project; according to EDEN ISS’s website, “The goal of the EDEN ISS project is to advance controlled environment agriculture technologies beyond the state of the art.
It focuses on ground dem- onstration of plant cultivation technologies and their application in space.” This project provided new insights in regards to growing plants in extreme climates. Long voyages into space, such for colonization on Mars far into the future, may require vegetation cultivation in a spaceship.
NASA reported last month that the International Space Station is conducting its own vegetable experiments in space. They harvested mizuna, known as “spider mustard,” Tokyo bekana cabbage and red romaine lettuce.
The Antarctic Greenhouse has the appearance of a long, thin trailer on stilts. It contains multiple window-boxes called “growth cabinets.” The crew is made up of 10 people who eat the vegetables grown at the facility regularly.
The Greenhouse is designed to run completely independent of its exterior atmospheric environment. Daniel Schubert, spokesperson for DLR, said in a press release in January 2018, “We are also adapting the air in the greenhouse to meet the needs of the plants as much as possible.” There are no needs for pesticides or insecticides, so the growth of the produce is purely biological.
Schubert told Associated Press that “the Antarctic project aims to produce a wider range of vegetables that might one day be grown on Mars or the Moon.”
This project is not only gath- ering human attention, but attention from other species. DLR noted in a press release that a number of penguins visited regularly, taking interest in the events of the facility. However, penguin visitations will probably be rare on Mars.
Rebecca Galib, a senior, studies English and Music. She is the Assistant Editor-in-Chief for Le Provocateur.