In the 2015 film The Martian, astronaut Mark Watney, played by Matt Damon, is stranded on the red planet after his crew leaves him for dead in the wake of a violent dust storm.
Faced with dwindling rations, Watney uses his botany and engineering know-how, plus a generous serving of his own waste, to improvise a potato farm on Martian ground.
Could this work in real life? Scientists who are conducting proof-of-concept experiments at the International Potato Center in Lima, Peru, think so.
The project is more than someone’s flight of fancy; crops that can grow on Mars would find some of Earth’s inhospitable habitats downright cozy.
And since one of the research center’s goals is to develop solutions for global hunger, their results could have significant implications beyond space travel.