Growing Food On Mars
The movie, “The Martian” has been getting rave reviews and in one crucial scene Matt Damon becomes the first farmer on the angry red planet. But what would it take to farm on Mars? WSU physicist Michael Allen along with UI food scientist Helen Joyner teamed up to explore the challenge. Allen says it was really a classroom exercise.
ALLEN: So the way the case study works is that you sort of start by realizing that you are stranded on Mars or whatever and you have to be self-sufficient, recycling everything and so you re asked to select a couple of criteria that would most promote that sense of self reliance. And then when you have chosen those criteria you are given a list of food stuffs and your food stuffs are already ranked by the criteria you have chosen and by the time you are done you’ve narrowed it down to a shortlist of possible food stuffs.
Allen says that in groups of four a class can easily come up with different sets of criteria.
ALLEN: So things like potatoes you know in The Martin movie, thing like potatoes are going to score very high , beans score very high. Something like fish, of course, is going to score very, very low on this. But the nice thing about the exercise is that it runs them through some problem solving; it makes them think about the problem in different ways.
NASA has mentioned it would like to send a manned mission to Mars in the future and then of course there are always the thoughts of can we colonize whatever planet or moon we end up on which of course will mean some kind of sustainable farming practices. It’s an interesting thought exercise. And who knows, maybe the first off-world farmer has already been born?
And that’s Washington Ag Today. I’m Greg Martin, thanks for listening on the Ag Information Network of the West.