According to recent reports, NASA is currently looking into ways to farm on Mars to support humans that will become inhabitants of the Red Project by 2030. The task is daunting as the scientists will have to find ways to overcome gravity, radiation, low surface pressure and sunlight issues.
Mars One, a Netherland-based company is currently working on a Mission to establish human settlements on Mars. The company plans on offering a select group of people a one way ticket to the Red Planet. And to support these people, NASA is presently looking for ways to grow crops on the planet that will provide food for the future inhabitants of Mars.
While it is possible to grow crops in the Martian soil, it will be a daunting task, posing many challenges and labor-intensive tasks.
"One of the things that every gardener on the planet will know is producing food is hard - it is a non-trivial thing," Penelope Boston, director of the Cave and Karst Studies program at New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, said May 7 at the Humans 2 Mars Summit at the George Washington University. "Up until several hundred years ago it occupied most of us for most of the time."
Initial studies have proved that growing crops is possible on the Red planet. However, scientists worry if Earthly plants will be able to survive in the microgravity conditions of Mars. Moreover, Mars receives only half the sunlight that Earth receives and providing supplementary sunlight would mean suing more power, making the process even more intimidating.
The planet's surface pressure is also very low. According to Robert Ferl, director of the Interdisciplinary Center for Biotechnology Research at the University of Florida, the job at hand for NASA currently is to find out if plants can grow at lower surface pressures.
NASA Curiosity rover readings also suggest that astronomers living on Mars would be exposed to high levels of radioactivity, which can be risky. Since the Red planet retains only a small part of its atmosphere, radioactive elements keep bombarding the planet's surface, exposing the humans and plants there to radioactive poisoning.
NASA says that the initial days on Mars would replicate the initial days on Earth when people focused simply on survival; growing food and preventing illnesses. According to an earlier report, more than 80,000 people have already signed up to win a chance to become a permanent resident of the Red Planet, even after being made aware of the living conditions there.