After the success of lettuce on the ISS (International Space Station), NASA continues its "agricultural" experiments to understand if vegetables can be grown in space.
This time it's the turn of potatoes: from March the American agency, together with the Peruvian International Potato Center (CIP), will conduct experiments in a laboratory in Lima to understand whether potatoes can be grown on Mars.
NASA has selected one hundred types of tubers: forty from the Andes, used to reproduce even in dry and rocky terrain, and sixty genetically modified to resist various pathogens and survive with little water and salt.
One ton of these potatoes will be transported to a special laboratory in Lima, where the Martian atmosphere, consisting mainly of carbon dioxide, will be simulated.
Here the tubers will be exposed to intense ultraviolet radiation and will grow in an extreme environment.
At the end of the experiment, the varieties that have survived and above all managed to reproduce in these critical conditions will be selected.
If no potatoes pass the test, the test will be repeated with a different growing method, perhaps the same one used for Project Veggie vegetables.
"Concrete results will come in a year or two," said Julio Valdivia Silva, a NASA astrobiologist.