To determine the best location for man's future colony on Mars, a couple of researchers from the Wageningen University and Research in the Netherlands have drafted three-dimensional maps highlighting various areas that would make ideal landing sites.
Ecologist Wieger Wamelink and his student Line Schug combined existing data collected by the NASA as well as the Arizona State University in a computerized information system.
Agricultural 3D Maps Of Mars
The result of this process is a set of animated maps with an agricultural perspective. Each of them details a certain aspect of the Red Planet, like the composition of its soil.
For instance, one of the maps reveals the amount of calcium and heavy metals found in its soil, while others provide information about its climate, temperature, and terrain height.
"The abundance of available data about Mars now makes this possible," says Wamelink in an official statement.
Ideal Locations For Human Colony
Overall, the researchers identified not just one but multiple sites that would be suitable for human life as well as cultivating vegetation for food.
These locations are represented by dark blue zones in the interactive maps. In fact, these areas are considered as "familiar" by Wamelink, as they have previously served as landing sites for Mars missions.
Among the ideal landing sites discovered is Acidalia Planitia, a place located just up north of where NASA's Viking 1 and Mars Pathfinder have touched down. However, its proximity to the planet's inactive volcanoes may pose a risk to the future colony.
Growing Crops In The Red Planet
In preparation for life on Mars, Wamelink has been studying how to grow crops on soil mimicking the surface of Mars and the moon. So far, he conducted a total of three experiments from 2013 through 2016.
Despite being potted in soil with different compositions, the researcher noted that the plants grew at a similar rate as they would using regular soil from the Earth. He admits that it's not exactly the same, but they're "getting there."
Under the "Food in Mars and Moon Project," Wamelink was able to harvest tomatoes, radishes, and rye in 2015. The following year, he grew ten various crops that could sustain human colonies on Mars, including beans, peas, carrots, and potatoes.
Because of all the heavy metals found in the Red Planet's soil, the crops had to be tested to determine if they're safe to eat. Luckily, they turned out to be edible and were served in "Martian dinners" that was hosted for the project's financiers.
All the ideal locations in the researchers' animated maps of Mars have soil composition conducive to growing food. The graphs don't include the Red planet's poles because there is limited information on such areas.