A land of unrelenting wind and ice, Antarctica is about as far from verdant as any place can get. Yet cucumbers are growing on the continent’s coast. Next to them, bunches of leafy Swiss chard, fresh herbs, and peppery arugula thrive.
These greenhouse vegetables are the stars of one of several scientific projects underway at Neumayer Station III, the third iteration of a German research facility run by the polar science-focused Alfred Wegener Institute. The greenhouse’s primary purpose is pretty lofty: It’s a laboratory for studying how to grow food in outer space. Specifically, the researchers working there want to know whether astronauts can make fresh produce part of their diets if humans finally make it to Mars.