University of Arizona wants to plant potatoes on Mars


The University of Arizona manages Biosphere 2, a laboratory of simulated habits whose motto is “What if you could see tomorrow?” And there is a new assumption, the fertility test on “dead” soils.

For a decade now, the University of Arizona has been managing Biosphere 2, a laboratory of simulated habits that is open to the public, whose motto is “What if you could see tomorrow?”.

Located 40 kilometers from the city of Tucson, Arizona, the Landscape Evolution Observatory (LEO), the new treasure of Biosphere 2, appears as a “bubble of iron and crystal” in the midst of the red desert. Inside, in the ground, it houses three ramps, where reproduce some of the terrestrial ecosystems like for example the forest, the savannah, the desert and mangal. This infrastructure also has a tropical ocean, with seas and even a coral reef.

There are approximately 500 tons of volcanic soil very similar to the surface of Mars, which will now be deposited in the structure, along with 1800 different sensors that measure the incidence of the sun, its intensity, heat, gases and wind on the surface, as well as changes as water is added.

Thus, the ultimate goal will be to convert a barren and dead soil into fertile soil. “By getting this, you have a land to plant,” said John Adams, deputy director of the center. With a more ambitious goal, the possibility of planting potatoes on Mars is put on the table, bearing in mind that the conditions are similar.

“It’s fascinating to talk about other planets, but it’s unlikely we or our grandchildren will travel to them”, said John Adams. “The important thing now is to understand the Earth, how it works and how we can adapt to it to survive. It is to decide how we can use the results in arid or volcanic zones, because after all we are talking about feeding people”, he added.

The Biosphere 2 team is made up of scientists and collaborators, and is also attended by biologists, geologists, ecologists, hydrologists, and others. The project, with its small domes and ecosystems, also tries to answer the question “Where is the rain?”.

Knowing what exactly happens to water, the “guiding thread of biology”,
understanding their “presences and absences” in each place, and how that will affect climate change, for example, are some of the goals, explained John Adams. “We want to know if we can change the reality in those places where it is more complicated to have a productive soil”, he concluded.