Martian Gardens Prepare for Life on Mars

Jul 31, 2017

Space Minute PSA Series #5: Martian Garden

Retired space shuttle astronaut Winston Scott…presents your Space Minute.

Imagine if farm-to-table was possible on a different planet.

In the movie “The Martian,” there is a scene where Matt Damon’s character, an astronaut who is stranded on Mars, cares for bright green plants sprouting up from the Red Planet’s dirt.

The scene seems necessary: to feed one astronaut with supplies from Earth for a year would cost $1 billion, not to mention the travel time it would take to get the food there.

But farming on Mars won’t be easy. And that’s where Florida Institute of Technology scientists step in: They’re partnering with NASA to figure out what needs to happen to make Martian veggies a reality.

One big problem? Martian soil – known as regolith – is toxic. Even touching it poses a health threat to humans.

Florida Tech researchers are in the early stages of figuring out the bare minimum required for a plant to thrive on Mars. They’re growing Romaine lettuce in different dirt, ranging from Earth soil to simulated Martian dirt, to find the magic formula needed to grow a plant on the inhospitable Red Planet.

Captain Winston Scott is a retired U.S. Navy fighter pilot and astronaut who flew on two space shuttle missions and walked in space three times. He’s now an administrator and faculty member at the Florida Institute of Technology. More information on Space Minutes at wfit.org.