Talk of potential colonization of Mars prompted astrobiologists students to develop the Mars Gardens project. In this project young specialists studied that vegetables can grow in iron oxide-rich Martian soil. More than 45 different types of crops have been tested since the program began in 2017.
Students have taken all necessary steps to recreate Martian conditions, with the aim to answer the question: Can plants be grown in Martian soil under reduced environmental lighting?
The environment on Mars is not quite welcoming: in general the planet is quite small (about one tenth of the Earth 's mass), cold (-50 ° C) and desert. The atmosphere of Mars is very thin, with increased carbon dioxide content. Mars is removed from the sun on 141,000,000 kilometers, i.e. the maximum intensity of sunlight on the Red planet is about 43% at most of light on Earth. However, there is good news, for example, carbon dioxide and nitrogen make up about 95% and 2.6% of the planet 's atmosphere, respectively. However, there is the ozone layer in the Martian atmosphere.
A few billion years ago, Mars could boast of a more favourable environment, including oceans, a temperate climate and, quite possibly, life. Since then it has lost most of its atmosphere and water. These harsh conditions make it necessary to grow all plants in heated, sealed greenhouses with significant compensation for humidity and water.
In their greenhouse experiments, students created an environment similar to what could be done in greenhouses on Mars. For example, they provided plants with about the same amount of sunlight. Considering these requirements, students also experimented with growing some plants with hydroponics.
Studies have shown that crop growth can be improved with two factors: increasing sunlight with LEDs and loosening dense Martian soils (regolyte) by adding pot soil or earthworm feces.
After multiple experiments, students excluded some plants. For example, low illumination on Mars is poorly suited for growing crops that require a lot of sunlight, such as tomatoes, beans, corn, or other root plants. Carrots are also not suitable for cultivation in Martian regolith. Potatoes do not bloom in conditions of simulating soil and low illumination, but batat shows the best results.
Scientists have discovered that dandelion can flourish and have significant benefits on Mars: they grow fast, every part of the plant is edible, and they have high nutritional value. Salad, rukkola, spinach, peas, garlic, cabbage and onions will also grow on Mars.
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