The International Potato Center briefed us to prove the potential of potatoes. So we came up with an idea that was out of this world – to grow them on Mars. Growing potatoes successfully on a hostile alien world would prove they could survive in extreme climates here on Earth. While Matt Damon was still preparing to play his fictional movie role, our very real mission had already started.
The NASA and UTEC scientists then designed and built an innovative CubeSat. The hermetically sealed device with a range of monitoring sensors was created specifically to replicate conditions on Mars – including Martian atmospheric pressure, extreme temperature, CO2 levels, light and radiation.The CubeSat was set up in strict laboratory conditions and the key ingredient, soil almost identical to that on Mars, was trucked in from Peru’s Pampas de la Joya desert and the “super potato” was planted and sealed inside the CubeSat, in the most inhospitable Mars like conditions. Then, together with over 100 million other people around the world, we watched the live feed from cameras inside the CubeSat and waited to see if the new variety would grow. Twenty-four hours a day, people watched on our dedicated portal: http://potatoes.space/mars/.
The mission made history. We developed a new organic variety of potato, called “Unique,” that now leads the way in climate-resistant crops. This has set the bar for future extra-terrestrial farming, but more importantly it’s proved that potatoes can grow in places on Earth that nobody thought possible. We’ve shown the world that by growing potatoes in Mars-like conditions, we can help save millions of lives here on Earth. And we’ve already started - our new potato is being deployed in climate crisis areas in Bangladesh.* Over 100 Million People Watched It Grow Live.* 280 Million Online Engagements* Over 3 Billion In Global Media Reach* Already Being Deployed To Climate Crisis Areas On Earth* Our New Potato Is Part of NASA’s Mission To Mars Planned For The 2030s.
From our base at the International Potato Center in Lima, Peru, we gave people around the world an incredible opportunity to watch history in the making – Growing Potatoes on Mars. Twenty-four hours a day, people were glued to our dedicated portal: http://potatoes.space/mars/. Word spread fast and through specially fitted cameras inside our CubeSat, 100 million people around the world, watched the live feed as we attempted to cultivate a new variety of potato in Mars-like conditions, to see which, if any, would grow.
We assembled, and collaborated with, a cross disciplinary team of CIP, UTEC and NASA scientists representing the fields of agriculture, plant breeding, astrobiology, medicine and physics. The Mars experiment was conducted at the International Potato Center headquarters in Lima, Peru, home to the world’s largest gene bank of potatoes. The scientists tested and cross-bred 65 of the hardiest varieties from over 5,000 available.