Crops can grow well in the moon and Mars, a new study has discovered.
The second installment of an experiment, which involved moon and Mars soil simulant provided by NASA yielded quite surprising results.
"The total above ground biomass produced on the Mars soil simulant was not significantly different from the potting compost we used as a control," says researcher Dr. Wieger Wamelink from Wageningen University & Research Centre.
Farming In Mars And In The Moon
The researchers seem to have been inspired by "The Martian" movie starring Matt Damon as both presented an attempt to produce crops in rather uncharted territories.
The main objective is to establish a foundation for growing crops on the moon and Mars for the first humans to be sent there to live.
The first experiment was performed in April 2015. The researchers were able to harvest a total of 10 different crops namely pea, tomato, radish, chives, leek, quinoa, spinach, cress, rye and garden rocket. The final harvest was conducted in October 2015.
The crops were sown from trays containing soil simulant of either Mars or the moon. The Mars soil simulant was obtained from a Hawaiian volcano, while the moon soil simulant came from a desert in the Arizonian region.
For control, the scientists used soil from Earth potting compost.
The entire setup was placed inside a glass house with fixed temperature, light and humidity. The environment was under Earth atmosphere because the authors anticipate that the first produce in the moon and Mars will occur in underground rooms to protect it from harsh elements such as cosmic radiation.
The researchers were able to note various improvements from the first to the second experiment.
For the second attempt, they used small pots and incorporated manure and organic freshly cut grass to both soil simulants. Such move solved their dilemma about watering in the first experiment.
The ultimate difference is that majority of the plants from the first experiment died, while those from the second attempt grew and flourished.
Earth Soil vs. Mars Soil
The generation of biomass in the Mars soil simulant and that of the Earth was lower, but the researchers say, the difference is not that significant.
Wamelink regards this as a real surprise as it presents that Mars soil simulant has tremendous potential if correctly prepared and watered.
The moon soil simulant showed about 50 percent lesser biomass production than both other soils.
Are The Crops Safe To Eat?
As of the moment, no. This is because the soils have heavy metals such as mercury, lead, arsenic and lots of iron.
Additional investigations are warranted hence, a new crowdfunding campaign has been initiated to fund a third experiment that will center on food safety.
The said experiment is projected to start in April 2016 and this time, the scientists will include potatoes and beans.
Once confirmed that the crops are safe to eat, funders will be invited for a Martian dinner where the harvested crops will be served for those who dare to at least take a bite.