It Looks Like Potatoes Really Can Grow on Mars

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By Joey Skladany Posted March 09, 2017

Step aside, kale and blueberries. There's a new superfood in town the universe.

Scientists with the International Potato Center (CIP) in Peru have conducted a series of tests to gauge potatoes' resiliency and viability in Mars-like conditions. The result: Potatoes are boss when it comes to survival.

2015 blockbuster The Martian, starring Matt Damon, focused entirely on his character's efforts to grow the tubers on the Red Planet. The difference is that he created an environment that replicated what we have on Earth (oxygen, water, air pressure, etc.), while the CIP actually mimicked the atmospheric qualities of Mars. Certain genetically-modified potatoes were able to weather the elements and actually sustain themselves in the simulated version of the planet's brutal open-air habitat.

The findings are not only awesome for the future of space travel and potential extra-terrestrial residency, but a great indicator of what type of food can be grown in areas affected by climate change and wavering food security.

To test the taters, the CIP partnered with engineers from the University of Engineering and Technology (UTEC) in Lima. Their designs, along with guidance, were provided by NASA's Ames Research Center (NASA ARC) to create the "CubeSat" that mimicked Mars' unique atmospheric and soil conditions.

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"It was a pleasant surprise to see that potatoes we've bred to tolerate abiotic stress were able to produce tubers in this soil," CIP potato breeder Walter Amoros said. "The results indicate that our efforts to breed varieties with high potential for strengthening food security in areas that are affected, or will be affected by climate change, are working."

While we're certainly in no rush to make the permanent move to Mars (a potato-only diet sounds quite boring), it's safe to assume that Earthly French fry and tater tot fans are probably eyeing the prospect of a potato-farming mission or, at least, what these "Mars potatoes" are going to taste like.

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