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.