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Scientists to grow potatoes on Earth under Mars conditions

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Washington:  To save millions of lives on Earth, a team of world-class scientists is ready to grow potatoes in the most inhospitable environments under the tough Martian conditions.

The experiment, led by the International Potato Centre (CIP) in Peru and NASA, is a major step towards building a controlled dome on Mars capable of farming the invaluable crop.

“I am excited to put potatoes on Mars and even more so that we can use a simulated Martian terrain so close to the area where potatoes originated,” said Julio E Valdivia-Silva, research associate of NASA who is leading the project’s science team.

By using soils almost identical to those found on Mars, sourced from the Pampas de La Joya Desert in Peru, the teams will replicate Martian atmospheric conditions in a laboratory and grow potatoes.

The increased levels of carbon dioxide will benefit the crop, whose yield is two to four times that of a regular grain crop under normal Earth conditions.

The Martian atmosphere is near 95 percent carbon dioxide.

“The extraordinary efforts of the team have set the bar for extraterrestrial farming. The idea of growing food for human colonies in space could be a reality very soon,” added Chris McKay, planetary scientist of the NASA Ames research centre.

Beyond the ability to thrive in challenging conditions, potatoes are also highly nutritious.

An excellent source of vitamin C, iron and zinc, they contain critical micro-nutrients missing in vulnerable communities globally.

“How better to learn about climate change than by growing crops on a planet that died two billion years ago?” noted Joel Ranck, CIP head of communications.

“We need people to understand that if we can grow potatoes in extreme conditions like those on Mars, we can save lives on Earth,” he added.

Currently, famine affects 842 million people around the world.

Global warming creates poor soil conditions and increases the number of pests and disease which have the combined effect of limiting harvests globally but particularly in vulnerable areas where poverty, malnutrition and food insecurity already exist.

Understanding atmospheric changes on the surface of Mars will help build more dynamic and accurate simulation centres on the Earth.

The goal is to raise awareness of the incredible illness due to potatoes and fund further research and farming in devastated areas across the globe where malnutrition and poverty are common, the authors concluded. (IANS) (image courtesy:i.imgur.com)

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NASA Selects Proposals For Four new Missions Related To Cosmic Explosions

Excluding the cost of launch, SMEX mission costs are capped at $145 million each, and MO costs are capped at $75 million each

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NASA
Following detailed evaluations, NASA intends to select two proposals in 2021 to be the next astrophysics missions under the agency's Explorers Programme. Wikimedia Commons

NASA has selected proposals for four missions that would study cosmic explosions and the debris they leave behind, as well as monitor how nearby stellar flares may affect the atmospheres of orbiting planets.

Following detailed evaluations, NASA intends to select two proposals in 2021 to be the next astrophysics missions under the agency’s Explorers Programme.

The selected missions will be targeted for launch in 2025, the US space agency said on Monday.

“These promising proposals under the Explorers Program bring out some of the most creative, innovative ways to help uncover the secrets of the universe,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator of the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

“From studying stars and planets outside our solar system to seeking answers to the largest cosmic mysteries, I look forward to the breakthrough science from these modest size missions,” Zurbuchen said.

Earth, Globe, Atmosphere, Clouds, Sky, Space Shuttle
NASA has selected proposals for four missions that would study cosmic explosions and the debris they leave behind, as well as monitor how nearby stellar flares may affect the atmospheres of orbiting planets. Pixabay

Two astrophysics Small Explorer (SMEX) missions and two Missions of Opportunity (MO) proposals were competitively selected, based on potential science value and feasibility of development plans.

Excluding the cost of launch, SMEX mission costs are capped at $145 million each, and MO costs are capped at $75 million each.

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Each SMEX proposal will receive $2 million to conduct a nine-month mission concept study. (IANS)