Of space farming, cosmic periwinkle

Published: December 26, 2015 22:22:19 | Updated: October 24, 2017 11:42:45


The news of future Mars explorers living for some time in NASA domes to experience psychological impact of a future prolonged stay on the planet has become old. The specially built domes in US deserts simulate the planet's atmospheric condition to be faced by scientists and astronauts on the planet, which is Earth-like and long considered habitable. Mars has not stopped the enthusiasts from spreading their wings of fancy. The length of the scientists' secluded life in the domes ranges from weeks to two years.
The catch is the prospects for staying alive on the planet without aid of scientific devices are bleak. Although it has a number of geophysical features conducive to human survival, the planet is filled with carbon dioxide. Scientists have determined the thickness of the gas at 95 per cent of its whole atmosphere. Venturesome space dreamers have now started visualising farming on Mars. They have homed in on potatoes, the ancient crop, the yield of which increases manifold in conditions having higher levels of carbon dioxide.
To the disappointment of many, prospects for normal human habitation on Mars are bleak, at least for now. But it's hard to stop intrepid persons from going ahead with brave new ventures. Full-scale efforts are, therefore, on to make the best use of the existing features favourable to human life on the planet. In the meantime, the news of growing potato on the planet's soil comes as something great indeed. It is not serendipitous. The earthlings have literally been waiting for such a human ingenuity. The potatoes will ultimately be made to grow in specially equipped domes on the red planet. It amply points to the possibility of finding organism on Mars under specific adaptive arrangements.
This is no pipedream. That humans may start living in domed colonies on planets and moons has come out of the confines of fiction. In spite of the signs of flowing water on the surface of Mars, the possibility of any trace of life-form has once been termed thin. Now there are changes in the readings of space science vis-à-vis Mars.   
The idea of growing potato on Mars results from a joint-venture initiative between NASA and Peru-based International Potato Centre (CIP). Scientists involved with the project are quite upbeat about the Martian potato harvests. As part of their mission, the NASA and CIP scientists have started carrying out researches in a laboratory, using the soil picked from a Peruvian desert. The components of the soil are uncannily identical with those found on the Martian surface.  The potato tests will be conducted in a Martian atmosphere simulated in a laboratory. The crop will be grown in the laboratory as a test case. Its proven success will see the sending-off of potato seeds to Mars.
If the potato-cultivation expedition of the scientists and pioneers finally becomes a success, the NASA-CIP team hopes to expand the venture to other planets and moons in our galaxy.
The aeronautical endeavours to detect signs of life in our solar system and outer galaxies keep continuing. Maybe, in the not-too-distant future we'll finally get signals of life-forms from an obscure exoplanet. In the meantime, growing potatoes on the soil of the Earth-like Mars will be a revolution in human space ventures after moon landing. Space farming and cosmic periwinkle may in the future become common features to the earthlings.
shihabskr@ymail.com
 

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