Scientists research (vegetable) life on Mars

Martian vegetables are the next big thing among potential astronauts hoping to visit Mars in 2026.

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Martian vegetables are the next big thing among potential astronauts hoping to visit Mars in 2026, including two from the UAE, according to local daily, The National.

Scientists on the Mars One project at Wageningen University and Research Centre in the Netherlands are growing fruit and vegetables in a Martian-like environment. Tomatoes, radishes, and peas, are a few of the crops being produced using soil similar to that found on Mars. They are altering the makeup of the soil to ensure it poses no risk to people.

The produce – which is safe to eat – has been found not to contain a high level of metals which are commonly present on Mars, such as aluminum, iron and lead. Martian soil naturally contains a high level of these metals, which can make the crops toxic to people.

“These results are very promising,” said senior ecologist Dr Wieger Wamelink. “We can ¬actually eat the radishes, peas, rye and tomatoes and I am very curious what they will taste like.”

According to The National, potatoes are also part of the crops used for the experiment. The participants will be the first to try the vegetables.

Mikolaj Zielinski, a Polish astronaut candidate from the UAE, said it was important the scientists “learn how to grow and add nutrition extracts to Martian soil.” He added that maintaining the crops might be challenging, but exciting at the same time.

Stephanie Nammar, a dietician who founded the nutrition website in Dubai, said with crop harvesting, the biggest risk was heavy metal contamination.

“Other risks might be the water quality and the nutrient content of Martian food, which should be equal to normal foods in vitamins and minerals. Exercise and nutrition are the best countermeasures to adjust to life under gravity on the Mars surface,” she said.

According to the newspaper, Nammar also voiced her concerns that the crops may not provide enough protein for the potential astronauts.

“Meat is hard to have on Mars because it involves a lot of space, needs a food source and energy. But chicken is a better option, because they are easier to handle,” she said.

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