It takes around nine months to reach Mars, three months to stay there, and another nine months to return to Earth. That’s a lot of food to be carried for astronauts. There isn’t much space on a shuttle, nor can it lift that much weight into space along with water, fuel, and other supplies. Keeping all this in mind and trying to ensure there’s enough food for astronauts on a Mars mission, scientists are working to make farming possible on the red planet.

“But there are many challenges to farming on Mars. Firstly, Mars’ dirt isn’t really soil; it’s crushed volcanic rock with no organic matter. Earth’s soil, on the other hand, contains organic stuff like bacteria, insects, and worms – it supports plant life. Hence, a lot of nutrients are required to make Mars’ dirt fertile,” Felix said.

Here’s the experiment that researchers conducted: They planted lettuce seeds in three types of artificial Mars dirt. Two dirt samples were made using materials mined in Hawaii that resemble dirt on Mars. The third sample was even closer to Mars’ dirt, for it was made with volcanic rock, salts, clays, and a few chemicals that NASA’s Curiosity rover reported seeing on the planet.

“As expected, the lettuce survived in the first two samples of natural dirt from Hawaii. However, nothing grew in the third soil which was closer to the real dirt on Mars. Even after adding fertilizers and other chemicals, the plants grew in the third Mars-like dirt but died within a week or two. But scientists are not giving up,” Felix added.

Five more fake Mars dirt mixtures are made. Experiments are going on with them. It may not be easy to grow plants on Mars, but there’s potential.

We believe our scientists will come up with a fantastic solution, soon!

“Imagine Earth’s supermarkets selling veggies grown on Mars as a premium product,” said Scorch with a hearty laugh.