In Ridley Scott's science fiction drama The Martian, Matt Damon's character plays a botanist who discovers how to grow potatoes on the Red Planet. Now, scientists are conducting an experiment that will bring them a step closer to making that a reality.
NASA and the Peru-based International Potato Centre (CIP) will start cultivating potatoes in Mars-like conditions on Earth, with the hope of eventually building a controlled dome on Mars capable of farming the ancient crop.
The team will replicate Martian atmospheric conditions in a laboratory, using soil from Peru's Pampas de La Joya desert —reportedly nearly identical to that found on the Red Planet.
"The increased levels of carbon dioxide will benefit the crop, whose yield is two to four times that of a regular grain crop under normal Earth conditions. The Martian atmosphere is near 95 percent carbon dioxide," CIP explained in a recent press release.
By understanding atmospheric changes on the surface of Mars, the team hopes it will help build more dynamic and accurate simulation centers on Earth. If successful, the experiment could see CIP and NASA pioneer space farming for future manned missions to not just Mars, but other planets and moons in the solar system.