As both NASA and private firms gear up for manned missions to Mars, preparations are also being made as to how any new colony will sustain itself. Invariably the costs of ferrying food between Earth and the red planet would be astronomical, and therefore the immediate concern for anyone establishing a colony on Mars will be how to create a sustainable supply of food.
Scientists are researching which plants and vegetables would be suitable for cultivation, and remarkably, despite the poor atmospheric conditions and solar radiation, the soil itself is fit for crops.
Dr Louisa Preston of the Open University envisions sending robots, carrying seeds, clay and nutrients to the red planet. The robots will also build geodesic domes – or space greenhouses – which would be resistant to the climactic conditions that any settlement would be likely to face.
“A Mars settlement would need to be self sufficient. Fortunately, a number of plants should grow well in Martian soil, such as potatoes, tomatoes, asparagus and some seeds and grains. It has been shown that you can even grow some flowers like marigolds in ground up meteorites.”