The human spread across the galaxy has taken a small step (or giant leap?) forward with news that scientists have declared food grown on Mars to be safe to eat by humans.
Martian food as good if not better than Earth’s produce
It’s official. The science fiction writers were correct. We’re going to colonize Mars, grow food there and establish an outpost. At least, we have made a significant discovery to help make that dream more of a reality.
Scientists have proven for the first time that various crops, grown in Martian soil, are edible and perfectly safe for human consumption.
A team of scientists from the Netherlands, based at Wageningen University & Research Center, have been attempting to grow food in soils that have been specifically designed to simulate the conditions found on Mars. They also looked at Moon conditions to see if that would also be possible.
The experiment has been progressing since 2013, and the first results appear very positive.
The main concern was the potential for unsafe and hazardous levels of metal contained within the crops. However, that fear was not borne out by the results, and it appears the food is perfectly safe, and the scientists have even cautiously suggested that it may “possibly” be healthier than the equivalent ‘Earth-grown’ food.
Dr. Wieger Wamelink, a member of the research team stated, “For radish, pea, rye and tomato we did a preliminary analysis and the results are very promising. We can eat them,”
It seems that the only slightly complication is radish. The radish did show unusually high levels of nickel, aluminum and iron, and they also seemed harder grow than would have been expected in moon-like conditions. However, the metal problem appears to be solvable by washing the lunar soil.
The project has been part financed by crowd funding and hopes to continue experimenting with a wider range of foods. “It’s important to test as many crops as possible, to make sure that settlers on Mars have access to a broad variety of different food sources,” explained Wamelink.
Next they are looking to test how potatoes, spinach and green beans may fare in the cosmic conditions. They are also looking to monitor the quantity of alkaloids, vitamins and flavonoids present in the crops.
Recreating the conditions of Mars on Earth
To recreate Martian conditions, the scientists gathered soil from the surroundings of a volcano in Hawaii. This was combined with freshly cut grass and left on shallow trays (to allow easy watering).
The ten crops tested were tomato, radish, leek, rye, pea, spinach, cress, chives, garden rocket and quinoa. They were compared to a control group with regular soil.
Those who have helped to fund the project will receive a “variety of potential gifts,” according to Wamelink, which is expected to include a special dinner, which will no doubt contain the new ‘Martian food’ they have managed to produce.
Future implications – Infinity and beyond
This is all exciting news to NASA and ESA (European Space Agency), as well as the enthusiasts. NASA has a stated goal to establish a human colony on the ‘red planet’ by the 2030s. If food can be grown there without health concerns that is a step closer to that goal. The ESA also has plans to create a ‘Moon Village’ on our cosmic companion.