The crew of the International Space Station recently took delivery of a case of wine. A full dozen bottles of delicious red wine traveled from Earth, through the atmosphere, and ended up at the orbiting laboratory where six scientists have to let it sit for a year before sending it back. They can’t drink it, which is a bummer, but the experiment aims to reveal how space radiation and low gravity might change the makeup and flavor of the wine.
It got me thinking, writes Mike Wehner in a blog post on BG.com: Who is going to be the first human to eat a vegetable grown on the surface of another world?
Scientists here on Earth have been experimenting with analogs of Martian soil to determine what might grow there, Wehner writes. There are a number of candidates, including potatoes, and it’s entirely possible that we’ll one day be growing crops somewhere other than Earth. That’s exciting, but just as with the wine experiment, we’re not entirely sure how something like a Mars potato might differ from an Earth potato.
The surface of Mars is bombarded with significantly more radiation than we have to deal with here on Earth. This is the result of Mars losing much of its atmosphere and a much weaker magnetic field. If we were to grow potatoes on the surface, even within something like a heated glass dome where we can control many variables, we really have no idea how the plant might react or how different the vegetables it produces might be.