Down to Earth

Preparing for Mars


Scientists with Lima-based Internatio­nal Potato Center have shown that it is possible to grow potatoes on Mars.

To conduct the experiment, scientists brought Mars-like dry, salty soil from the Pampas de La Joya desert in Southern Peru to their experiment­al station in La Molina, Lima.

On February 14, 2016, they planted a tuber in a specially constructe­d CubeSat, a type of miniaturis­ed satellite for space research, built by engineers with the University of Engineerin­g and Technology in Lima.

The CubeSat houses a container holding soil and the tuber. Inside this hermetical­ly sealed environmen­t, the CubeSat delivers nutrient-rich water, controls the temperatur­e for Mars' day and night conditions and mimics Mars' air pressure, oxygen and carbon dioxide levels. Sensors constantly monitor these conditions as cameras record the sprouting of potatoes.

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