Over the next few decades NASA and private enterprise missions plan to send manned missions to Mars with the ultimate aim to establish a permanent human presence on this planet. For a self-sustaining colony on Mars it will be necessary to provide food by growing plants in sheltered greenhouses on the Martian surface. As part of an undergraduate student project in Astrobiology at Villanova University, experiments are being carried out, testing how various plants grow in Martian regolith. A wide sample of plants are being grown and tested in Mars regolith simulant commercially available from The Martian Garden (TheMartian Garden.com). This Mars regolith simulant is based on Mojave Mars Simulant (MMS) developed by NASA and JPL for the Mars Phoenix mission. The MMS is based on the Mojave Saddleback basalt similar that used by JPL/NASA. Additional reagents were added to this iron rich basalt to bring the chemical content close to actual Mars regolith. The MMS used is an approximately 90% similar to regolith found on the surface of Mars - excluding poisonous perchlorates commonly found on actual Mars surface.The students have selected various vegetables and herbs to grow and test. These include carrots, spinach, dandelions, kale, soy beans, peas, onions, garlic and of course potatoes and sweet potatoes. Plants were tested in various growing conditions, using different fertilizers, and varying light conditions and compared with identical “control plants” grown in Earth soil / humus. The results of the project will be discussed from an education view point as well as from usefulness for fundamental research.We thank The Martian Garden for providing Martian regolith simulant at education discounted prices.
American Astronomical Society Meeting Abstracts #231
- Pub Date:
- January 2018