It’s a novel approach; scientists have simulated conditions on Mars to find out if potatoes can grow in extreme environments on Earth.
The answer? They can, confirming what anyone who’s read or watched The Martin already knew, as Engadget notes.
In fact, this isn’t the first study to look at whether spuds could grow on the Red Planet, but it is the most accurate.
The International Potato Center in Peru placed a hardy tuber inside a CubeSat, a satellite that shields its contents from space while recreating the temperature, air pressure, oxygen and CO2 levels on Mars.
“Growing crops under Mars-like conditions is an important phase of this experiment,” Julio Valdivia-Silva, a research associate with the SETI Institute, said in a statement.
“If the crops can tolerate the extreme conditions that we are exposing them to in our CubeSat, they have a good chance to grow on Mars. We want to know what the minimum conditions are that a potato needs to survive.”
The scientists are now planning to do several rounds of experiments to find out which varieties grow best in adverse conditions.
Generating more calories per land area than any other crop, potatoes could be a critical food source in areas that become less fertile as climate change takes hold, which is why they’re so interesting to scientists.