Are we one step closer to abandoning Earth and setting up a colony on Mars with only the best and brightest?
Using a NASA-developed reproduction of regolith (the combination of dust, dirt and space debris) plus some organic material from Earth, the Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands has successfully grown a number of vegetables in Mars-like soil.
The vegetables, garden cress, rocket, tomato, radish, rye, quinoa, chives, peas and leeks were all considered nutritious enough to maintain healthy individuals with moderate levels of vitamins and minerals. A significant step in the push towards creating off-world colonies that are self-sustaining.
The vegetables were all edible, with the exception of spinach (no big loss), with the radish, garden cress, and rye plants showing enough vitality to produce seeds for a second crop and maintain a sustainable closed-agriculture system for a Lunar or Mars colony in the future.
Moon regolith has continued to yield poorer results and researchers are unsure why.
The Mars simulant soil was collected from volcanic areas of Hawaii that were then augmented to match the mineral and ph levels to that or Mars. The same was done with the Moon simulant regolith from deserts in Arizona with similar levels to that of Moon.
Although there is much to do in term of creating an environment that can support life - like an atmosphere free from solar radiation and punishing fluctuating temperatures - the fact we can create a sustainable means of food on a barren world is a large push in the right direction.
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