In 2026, the Dutch company Mars One plans on sending a selection of candidates on a one-way trip to Mars. The mission: to establish a permanent human colony.
In order for that to happen, however, they’ll need to establish a permanent food source. That’s why they’ve backed senior ecologist Wieger Wamelink and his team at Alterra Wageningen UR to investigate which crops would successfully grow in the planet’s soil, and after that, whether they’d be safe to eat.
On June 23 2016, the Dutch scientists published results suggesting that 4 of the 10 crops they’ve been growing in NASA-made artificial Mars soil contain no dangerous levels of heavy metals. The crops so far proven successful are radishes, peas, rye, and tomatoes. Further tests are pending on the remaining plants, including potatoes, leek, spinach, garden rocket and cress, quinoa, and chives.
Other factors of crop success
The success of these experiments, however, is dependent on more than whether or not heavy metals in the soil will make the plants toxic. The experiments work on the premise that an atmosphere is present, either in domes or underground rooms, to protect plants from the hostile environment of Mars.
Not only that, but it’s also assumed that there’ll be water, either shipped from earth or mined on Mars. Shipping times may be cut to 39 days with plasma rockets (see previous article), but it doesn’t make building a colony on Mars any less dangerous.
Still, should the plants grow, they’d create an ecosystem of sorts, taking in carbon dioxide and cycling out oxygen in special colonized buildings. With NASA also planning to launch its own expedition around 2030 (see previous article), a human colony on Mars could become a reality.
Establishing bases on the moon (see previous article) and the Red Planet would be an enormous milestone for humanity. Doing so would open the possibility of venturing further out into space, and exploring more and more space frontier with the technologies developed for these expeditions. No longer would we confine ourselves to the Earth. Space is limitless--or at least too wide for us to reach a boundary.