It’s a scientific experiment that seems ripped from a Ridley Scott movie—literally.
Now that Congress has challenged NASA to establish human exploration of Mars by 2033, NASA has some practical concerns to address. Food is chief among them. Once people arrive, what would they eat? Just as Matt Damon found out in the 2014 blockbuster movie, “The Martian,” the answer is: potatoes, apparently.
In an experiment, NASA and the International Potato Center recreated Mars’ harsh atmospheric conditions inside a sealed, CubeSat box. Then, they filled it with lifeless desert soil from Peru’s Pampas de la Joya desert, planted a potato, and waited.
According to the International Potato Center, “preliminary results are positive,” meaning a potato plant actually grew under those conditions. While it’s not a perfect representation of what Martian farming would be, it’s a promising result, and other studies have shown that food can be grown in a type of moon dust called regolith, which is even more barren than the soil used in this experiment.
Since the Mars potato experiment was filmed, you can watch a time-lapse video of it by scrolling below.