Tonight on TF1 was broadcast Alone on Mars, the opportunity for AlloCiné to review the experiment carried out after the release of the film by scientists aiming to grow potatoes under Martian conditions.
HOW HE DID MATT?
To put it in context, let’s first go back to the different stages that allowed Mark Watney (Matt Damon) to grow potatoes in his base. First, he calculated the number of calories he needed each day and therefore how much food he would need to create from the potatoes provided by NASA. From each potato, he extracted a piece containing an “eye” – the botanical term for this kind of outgrowth from which vegetables grow – which he covered with Martian soil. Since there is no water on the planet, he chemically made some from rocket fuel, not without struggling a bit. As for fertilization, there is nothing like the good old Earth remedy for crew droppings, and voila! This is how he was able to last several months without dying of hunger.
You should know that NASA did not wait Alone on Mars to experiment with agriculture in soil designed to get as close as possible to the chemical composition of Martian soil (a dozen crops have thus borne fruit). Beyond the scientific challenge, which opens up a host of possibilities and strengthens the hope of one day being able to conquer the red planet, such a feat would make it possible to push the authorities to finance research for agriculture in devastated and inhospitable areas. of the earth.
THE IN REAL LIFE EXPERIENCE
It was in Lima, Peru, that the experiment took place in early 2016. NASA scientists, in collaboration with those from the International Potato Center (yes, it does exist), developed their tests to inside a box called CubeSat (a kind of nano-satellite that can be put into orbit) in which they have attached pumps, small garden hoses, LEDs and other instruments to reconstruct as closely as possible the temperatures, light cycles, gases and air pressure of Mars. After having tested the resistance of about sixty varieties of potatoes in a land brought back from Pampas de la Joya (a particularly inhospitable Peruvian heath where it hardly ever rains, presenting a lot of smilarities with the Martian soil), only one managed to grow, that of the variety called “Unique”. You can not make that up ! You can also watch this shoot in a time-lapse made available by the CIP by following this link.
SO IS IT POSSIBLE TO GROW POTATOES ON MARS?
In reality, we do not know … The elements brought together to carry out this experiment made it possible to reproduce conditions as close as possible to those of Mars but at no exact moment. This lack of precision (obviously impossible to obtain) undermines the process since it suffices, for example, for a microbe found exclusively in Peruvian soil to have caused the growth of the tuber. This result is however encouraging. Scientists can thus use it as a basis for, in particular, creating super-strong potatoes. But not only… “These results indicate that efforts to cultivate these varieties in the hope of enhancing food security in areas devastated by climate change have not been in vain.“A beautiful message of hope delivered by Walter Amoros, CIP potato grower.