Until this year, you probably never imagined growing potatoes could be so gripping. A good portion of The Martian revolved around Matt Damon’s botanist character carefully tending to a crop of tubers on the surface of Mars, but would such a thing even be possible? Since the movie came out, some fact-checkers have tried to shoot down The Martian‘s potato-powered paradise, but apparently NASA itself sees some value in cultivating ‘taters on the red planet.
NASA is collaborating with the International Potato Center (yes, that’s a real thing) to grow potatoes on Earth under Mars-like conditions. The potatoes will be planted in soil from a Peruvian desert that almost exactly matches the soil on the red planet and grown in a lab that mimics the atmospheric conditions of Mars.
Of course, these experiments will be valuable when/if mankind ever decides to travel to Mars, but they could also teach us how to grow spuds on inhospitable parts of our own planet. Potatoes are hearty, easy to grow and relatively nutritious, so they could be a key to tackling world hunger. Or at least that’s what the folks at the International Potato Center are probably hoping.
So yes, Martian potato farms very well could end up being a thing. Now, NASA needs to get working on a way to make ketchup on Mars.