Colonies in Mars will require vast quantities of food in the future. However, bringing it from Earth would be costly and dangerous.
To counter this problem, food should be grown in greenhouses specially constructed for this purpose. Such a system would require large quantities of topsoil as a growing medium for the plants.
A series of artificial soil mixtures mimicking the topsoil of Mars was developed by researchers of University of Georgia (UGA). The substitute sample was composed of mixtures of soil, clay, salts, and other components easily available on the surface of Mars.
A geology doctoral candidate and lead author at UGA, Laura Fackrell explained, “Simulating the mineral makeup or salt content of these Martian mixtures can tell us a lot about the potential fertility of the soil. Things like nutrients, salinity, pH are part of what make a soil fertile. Understanding where Mars’ soils are at in that spectrum is key to knowing if they are viable and if not, are there feasible solutions that can be used to make them viable.”
Elon Musk and SpaceX plan to launch 100,000 colonists to Mars every 26 months. The team plans on having one million people on the face of the Red Plant by 2050.
Despite its thin atmosphere and frigid temperatures, the upper crust of Mars contains many of the nutrients needed by plants, including nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous.
“Soil on Mars is known to contain the majority of planet essential nutrients. Many questions of both the benefits (bio availability of present nutrients) and limitations (extent of toxins) of Martian soil as a plant growth medium remain unanswered.” described a researcher.