Skip to main content

NASA says a simple greenhouse will allow astronauts to grow food on Mars

When NASA announced Monday it had uncovered the strongest evidence for flowing water on Mars, most of the collective attention (rightfully) centered on the increasing odds of also finding signs of life. After all, water is one of life’s most important building blocks so if NASA continues to “follow the water,” as John Grunsfeld put it Monday, chances are extremely likely the Red Planet has the capability to sustain living things. However, it was something else Grunsfeld said which is arguably just as important as finding life. In a response to a telephoned media question, Grunsfeld acknowledged the presence of water ultimately allows future astronaut missions to grow living, sustainable crops. Mark Watney just gasped.

After fielding the question about whether Mars could sustain Earth crops, Grunsfeld was quick to point out the planet’s relative altitude — three times the height of Mount Everest — would desiccate any living crops planted on its surface. He did, however, posit that future Martian astronauts would have the ability to construct small, inflatable greenhouses that would be highly pressurized. With the help of the planet’s apparent water, as well as the abundance of carbon dioxide for plant’s to create oxygen with, maintaining living crops on Mars isn’t as far fetched as this sentence would’ve sounded just last week.

Related Videos

“You’d have a challenge growing plants on the surface of Mars, even with some extreme genetic engineering,” said Grunsfeld, “but certainly you could build inflatable or small greenhouses with high pressure, and if there’s a lot of water on Mars you could then use that water to grow plants inside the greenhouse.”

While there remains many years of research and development before a team of astronauts actually makes the journey to Mars, NASA’s recent findings give it some revolutionary footing to work with. Grunsfeld stated earlier in the press conference he hoped an expedition to Mars would happen sooner rather than later and once it did, science would be at the forefront of the mission.

In light of NASA’s findings of water on Mars, he feels it’s even more critical to send planetary scientists and astrobiologists to the Red Planet to continue the agency’s search for life. With an apparent solution in the works for solving the riddle of cultivating and maintaining Martian resources, it seems likely Grunsfeld’s wish to get there quickly won’t be hard to fulfill.

Liquid Water on Today's Mars

Editors' Recommendations

NASA declares Mars InSight lander mission officially over
This illustration shows NASA's InSight spacecraft with its instruments deployed on the Martian surface.

Just over four years after reaching Mars, NASA has officially announced the end of its InSight lander mission.

The declaration came on Wednesday, December 21, after NASA failed to make contact with the lander across two consecutive attempts, leading the mission team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to conclude that InSight’s solar-powered batteries had run out of energy, a state referred to as “dead bus.”

Read more
Final messages from NASA’s Mars lander will bring a tear to your eye
A view from NASA's InSight lander showing its wind and thermal shield covering some of its science instruments.

The last image from NASA's InSight lander shows the wind and thermal shield covering some of its science instruments. NASA

It’s been known for some time that NASA’s InSight Lander was coming to the end of its operations on Mars after four years of service. And it looks as if its final communication with Earth has just taken place.

Read more
How will NASA keep Mars astronauts safe from cosmic radiation? Here’s the plan
AstroRad Vest

The Artemis I mission, which recently completed a historic test flight around the moon, didn't have any astronauts on board -- but it did have two very special passengers: Helga and Zohar, a pair of highly anatomically detailed dummy torsos, one of which wore a special radiation shielding vest for the journey. Their mission? Measure radiation exposure in deep space and determine whether a vest can help protect astronauts from the unseen dangers of space.


Read more