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'The Martian': You Can Now Farm On Mars, Like Mark Watney

First Posted: Oct 20, 2015 02:06 PM EDT

Humans can now learn how to farm on Mars, according to a recent study by scientists at Washington State University and the University of Idaho.

Researchers are figuring out potential methods that be used to farm on Mars, similar to astronaut Mark Watney in the movie "The Martian" played by Matt Damon, who uses his knowledge as a botanist to create a makeshift farm on Mars, according to a news release.

Physicist Michael Allen from Washington State University and Helen Joyner, a food scientist from University of Idaho, collaborated to explore the possible means of farming that could transpire on the Red Planet. The project was similar to Watney's, who needed to grow food in an artificial habitat.   

Allen and Joyner had their students identify potential challenges in producing crops indefinitely and develop criteria for selecting crops. The students then used a scoring system to select three optimal foods. In about 30 trials, no one had the same answers, according to Allen.

One of the major challenges in the study was figuring out what the "Martian" soil was like, Allen revealed. Probes have identified little carbon, which is the central element to life and nitrogen, which is needed to make protein. Water is also likely to react with peroxides in the soil, bubbling off as gas.

Tabletop astronauts are limited to what they can bring, thus they would not have a lot of farming tools to use.

"You are starting with nothing," Joyner said. In a way, farming and dining on Mars is beside the point, Allen claimed.

"I'm not teaching about growing food on Mars," Allen said. "I'm teaching about living with choices. I'm teaching about problem solving."

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