Do you need to begin a farm on Mars? This rover will discover out if it's doable

A trip to Mars has its own challenges. The distance alone makes the trip a kind of mission in itself. However, when you arrive, the handwork has just begun. Living and surviving on Mars may be humanity's greatest challenge yet. It would be impossible to take everything with you to survive. Instead, it would be imperative to “live off the land” and produce as much as possible locally. A new rover called AgroMars will be equipped with a series of agriculture-related experiments to study the nature of soil and assess its suitability for growing food.

Growing food on Mars presents a number of challenges, primarily due to the harsh environmental conditions. These include low air pressure, extreme temperatures and high levels of radiation. To address these problems, new techniques in hydroponics and aeroponics have been developed. The key to these new techniques is the use of nutrient-rich solutions instead of soils.

Special structures are built analogous to greenhouses on Earth with artificial lighting, temperature and humidity control. Genetic engineering has also helped develop plants that are more resilient and able to survive in the harsh Martian environment. As we continue to explore the solar system, and Mars in particular, we must find ways to grow food in alien environments.

The space station's Veggie Facility, here staffed by NASA astronaut Scott Tingle, during the plant growth study VEG-03, where Extra Dwarf Bok Choy, Red Russian Kale, Wasabi Mustard and Red Lettuce were grown and in orbit samples for later use Tests were harvested soil. Photo credit: NASA

Enter AgroMars. A space mission that will take a rover to Mars to search for and explore the possibility of establishing agriculture on Mars! The rover will be launched with similar capabilities to Perseverance or Curiosity. The rover will be powered by Space's Falcon 9 launch vehicle. The development phase has yet to begin. The mission was formulated in an essay by lead author M. Duarte dos Santos, but the reality is still a little distant.

Upon arrival, AgroMars will use an X-ray and infrared spectrometer, high-resolution cameras, pH sensors, mass spectrometers and drilling tools to collect and analyze soil samples. The samples are examined for mineralogical composition, soil quality, soil pH, presence of organic compounds and water retention capacity.

To assess Martian soil, the rover will need to have more advanced soil sample collection and analysis capabilities than before. The data is then sent to laboratories on Earth and it is their responsibility to interpret the information. The variety of groups involved is a wonderful reminder of how science transcends geographical boundaries. Collaboration will produce far better results and help expand our knowledge of astrobiology and agriculture on Mars.

“Calypso” panorama of the view of the ghost of “Troy”. This full-circle view from NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit's panoramic camera (Pancam) shows the terrain surrounding the site of Troy, where Spirit was embedded in soft earth in spring 2009. The hundreds of images were combined into this view. The images began on the 1906th Martian day (or sol) of Spirit's mission to Mars (May 14, 2009) and ended on the 1943 sol (June 20, 2009). Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell University

However, this is not cheap. The estimated cost of the mission is approximately $2.7 billion, including development, launch and exploration of the entire mission.

The total cost of the mission is estimated at around $2.7 billion, including $2.2 billion for the development and launch of the rover and $500 million for its operation throughout the mission. Whether it succeeds, pardon the pun, remains to be seen, but if we want to explore Mars and even establish a permanent base, we need to better understand the environment to feed and sustain future explorers.

Source: AgroMars, concept study for a space mission to explore the Martian soil and atmosphere to search for agricultural opportunities on Mars.

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