Is the Mars surface fit for farming?

Mars is the fourth planet of the sun and the second-smallest planet in the solar system. It is also known as Red planet. But the reason which has forced the scientists to think about Mars as an alternative planet of Earth is, It has a large amount of underground ice. That means there is water. Where there is water, there is life. That’s why scientists are searching for ways to make the Mars surface fit for farming.

Discovery of the Aerogel Sheet 

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Scientists of Harvard University have recently developed an aerogel sheet which will make the Mars surface fit for farming. According to them, the sheet can turn the cold and dry surface into arable land. The sheet imitates the greenhouse effect of Earth. It will hold the heat of the sun and melt the underground ice and thus they will make the land fit for agriculture.

Effect of the Aerogel Sheet 

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Robin Wordsworth is an Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering at Harvard University, who have worked on these sheets. According to him, it will be a very useful way and completely scalable. Thus small areas of few square meters, as well as large regions, can also be covered by the sheet. The risk of contaminating Mars with a foreign organism isn’t there because the plants will any grow under the sheets. The sheets can be used on the small scale with the robotic landers for conducting tests and later on it will be used for human exploration of Mars.

Besides, ISRO has also developed such lightweight silica aerogel at Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, Thiruvananthapuram. These are cost-effective and can be used as insulators. It can also help in the cold and dry environment of Mars in many ways.

What is its composition? 

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There is 97 % air in the aerogel sheets and other silica networks. Scientists of NASA, as well as the University Edinburgh, have shown the aerogel sheets stopping the UV rays, allowing visible light for photosynthesis of the plants. It was also capturing the heat to melt the ice. The thickness of such sheet ware only 2 – 3 cm.

Why do we need to cultivate on Mars? 

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The scientists and the environmental specialist have been warning us often about the harm we are doing to the earth and nature. Late Stephen Hawking had talked about it many times. He had also old about mastering the skill of growing food is the alien soil. And we are moving in that direction.

Other challenges 

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Water is not the only problem for farming, as Mars has a thin atmosphere, the amount of dangerous radiation on the red planet is also high, which is not a good sign at all. Besides, it has 95% Carbon dioxide, 0.174% Oxygen and very little amount of Water vapour in its atmosphere. There is 2.6% Nitrogen in the atmosphere, which is very low concerning Earth’s 78%. There occur Dust storms on Mars every 5.5 earth year. The red planet has an oxidizing atmosphere. The reactions in the martian atmosphere oxidize organic species and convert them into carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide.

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