The agency — which plans a manned Mars mission for the 2030s — is currently exploring means by which the colonists could farm on Mars, Space.com reports.
The debate centers on proposals that would have a human presence on the red planet be long-term, instead of a quick visit. If humans are to live on Mars sustainably they need a means to produce food and not rely on supplies shipped from Mars.
It’s no easy task. Lower gravity, reduced sunlight and other changed conditions could all damage the ability to grow plants to provide both oxygen and food for colonists. While NASA has done studies on growing food plants in microgravity aboard the International Space Station, there have been few — if any — studies that simulate martian conditions.
Still, scientists envision that these obstacles can be overcome. “Every great migration in history happened because we took our agriculture with us. When you learn to take your plants with you, you can not only go to visit, you can go there to stay and live,” says Dr. Robert Ferl of the Interdisciplinary Center for Biotechnology Research.