Beer on the Red Planet?

Students find hops could grow on Mars

Last semester, 25 students took a class on astrobiology from Dr. Edward F. Guinan, a professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Villanova University, about the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe.

For the laboratory part of the course, the students became farmers, experimenting to see which crops might grow in Martian soil and feed future travelers there.

“I was trying to come with a project for the students to do, a catchy project that would be fairly easy,” Dr. Guinan said. “I kept telling them, ‘You’re on Mars, there’s a colony there, and it’s your job to feed them. They’re all depending on you.’”

For the most part, the students chose practical, nutritious plants like soy beans and kale in addition to potatoes. Some added herbs like basil and mint so that astronauts could enjoy more flavorful food on the solar system’s fourth world.

And one group chose hops.

“Because they’re students,” Dr. Guinan said. “Martian beer.” (He vetoed marijuana.)

Future experiments might grow bamboo, which could also be useful on Mars. “Not because we want panda bears over there,” Dr. Wamelink said. The shoots are edible, and “It’s also a good building material,” he said.

This semester, two Villanova astronomy students will perform follow-up experiments. That includes attempting to grow barley, the other essential ingredient for future Martian beer.

Read more at The New York Times (Kenneth Chang)

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