Thanks to the International Potato Center (yes, there is such a thing), when Leonardo DiCaprio travels to Mars IRL, as he is planning to do, his diet could include some way more exciting snacks than Tang and freeze-dried ice cream. That's because scientists from the Potato Center, working in conjunction with NASA, have identified a type of potato that will actually grow well on the harsh climate of Mars.
The scientists involved in the project said that the potato discovery could not only benefit future Mars exploration, but could also help us deal with the impact of climate change on Earth. So, feel free to continue fucking up this planet, people, because all we need is a lift to Mars, and a diet of potatoes awaits!
The study went down in a lab in Lima, Peru—which is pretty damn apropos, because Peru is the birthplace of the domesticated potato, and, today, more than 4,000 types of potatoes are grown in the Andean highlands of Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru. Potatoes—luckily for Mars explorers—enjoy growing in cold, barren land, but the research project involved growing potatoes in truly frigid, high carbon-dioxide settings that simulated Martian conditions.
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The researchers in Peru—with an assist from NASA's Ames Research Center in California—took 1,540 pounds of soil from Peru's southern coast and transported it to Lima, where they planted 65 varieties of potato. The soil comes from a terroir that receives less than one millimeter of rain per year; Mars is similarly dry.
Then, the scientists attempted to grow the potatoes in below-zero temperatures with high carbon monoxide conditions and air pressure similar to that found at almost 20,000 feet above sea level. Only four varieties of potatoes managed to grow in those harsh conditions.
The scientists took one of the surviving potato plants and replaced the soil it was growing in with crushed rocks and a nutrient solution, again in an attempt to make the conditions more Martian. The aptly named "Unique" varietal won out.
Julio Valdivia, a scientist at Peru's University of Engineering and Technology said the "Unique" potato was a "super potato" because it "resists very high carbon dioxide conditions and temperatures that get to freezing."
Looks like mankind is yet another step closer to life on a planet that isn't slowly becoming a flaming pile of trash.