Categorised in: Science
From the sound of it, traveling to Mars is going to be an absolute (and possibly literal) nightmare. After years of cramped conditions on a spaceship, forced cryosleep that lasts for weeks at a time (woe betide anyone prone to bad dreams), and heavily regimented exercise, by the time anyone gets to the Red Planet, they’ll be in need of a good drink.
While previously, we could have assumed that there’ll be nothing on Mars to drink but potato juice, a new study undertaken by students of Villanova University has proven that hops, the grain used to create beer, grows perfectly well in Martian soil.
Of course, the study wasn’t conducted in actual Martian soil; we don’t have a sample of that just yet. Instead, the researchers created a version of soil based on samples that have been obtained of what’s mixed up in the dirt on Mars, going off the plentiful samples that NASA has taken from Martian dirt and analyzed over the years.
The aim of the study was, primarily, academic – it was undertaken by astronomy and astrophysics professor Edward F. Guinan, as a way to teach students about life on Mars and the conditions there. Students were allowed to select different plants in order to see how well they’d grow if planted on Mars by future colonists.
Naturally, the students chose to grow hops in order to see how beer would do on the Red Planet. In fairness, this is more than just a silly student question, as the possibility of home-grown alcoholic beverages will no doubt be an important part of life for colonists who might one day make Mars their home.
It’s worth noting that Professor Guinan vetoed hopeful student plans to grow marijuana in Martian soil, which is a bit of a shame, but thankfully, another group of scientists are already hard at work on this particular challenge.
The students’ study is similar to one that’s being conducted by Budweiser, who naturally also have a vested interest in extra-terrestrial beer, but who also benefit from access to the International Space Station in order to make more thorough tests of how hops survive off-Earth.
Meanwhile, in addition to hops, the students of Professor Guinan’s class also tested a variety of other crops which may be of crucial importance to future Martian explorers.
It turns out that not only is coffee capable of growing just fine in Martian soil, but it even helps improve the quality of soil on other planets, altering the pH balance. It could be that the first step to colonizing Mars could involve planting coffee simply to prepare the soil for other, more sensitive crops – in which case, we can expect initial colonists to be somewhat jittery, and go without too much sleep at first.
Another plant that will be needed right from the start will be bamboo – not, sadly, because Mars will make a good habitat for pandas, but because the plant is an excellent construction material. Bamboo grows quickly, and is very sturdy, meaning that it’s perfect for building houses and other buildings when colonists are just setting out. And all of it will probably be more sanitary than the potato-growing process from The Martian.
So if you’ve ever wondered what the future of Martian colonization might actually look like, it seems that the Red Planet will be covered in tiny bamboo huts, filled with colonists who are either way too hyped up on caffeine, or flat our drunk. Or both. Also, unfortunately, they might all be suffering from thyroid diseases. It turns out that Martian soil is full of perchlorates, which isn’t all that great for humans to consume.
Once the poor colonists start suffering from constipation and muscle weakness typically caused by thyroid issues, they’ll probably need all the coffee and beer they can lay their hands on.