Extraterrestrial Farming On Mars Harder Than Expected
Movies make it seem like farming on another planet is simple. From modern civilizations to a lone man stuck on Mars, Hollywood makes it seem like farming on a completely different terrain is as easy as growing potatoes in your backyard.
Of course, with SpaceX and NASA's plan of colonizing Mars in the near future, establishing a sustainable presence should be on top of the list in order for humans to live in that certain environment. To do so, it is necessary to device ways of producing food -- especially if none exist there to begin with.
Matt Damon's Mark Watney was able to plant potatoes in a makeshift greenhouse in his 2015 movie, The Martian, using the vaccum-packed potatoes from the mission. He was able to use the Martian soil with the help of chemical reactions in water. He was also able to fertilize the crops with freeze-dried poop.
Unfortunately, as Space.com noted, real-life is not quite as easy. First, it will cost about $1 billion per person per year just to send food from Earth to Mars -- which means that there is a need to make another plan for feeding future alien explorers.
Daniel Batcheldor, professor of physics and space sciences at the Florida Institute of Technology and the project lead for the Buzz Aldrin Space Institute, said that "Elon Musk has presented the world with a challenge." He also added that while we cannot deliver the mass needed to the surface of Mars from things sent from Earth, there is a need to create a sustainable colony that is not dependent on supplies from our own planet.
Still growing plants on alien soil is not altogether impossible. Nova.org previously noted that the ESA demonstrated ways for humans to grow plants on other celestial bodies, specifically, that marigolds can grow in crushed rock -- rock that is accessible on the lunar surface.