Tomatoes on Mars. Peas on Earth

Ok, bad pun! But growing produce on Mars is quite a work in progress, by the folks at MarsOne. Tomatoes, especially.

Despite the Matt Damon agro project, growing food is not going to be easy, from accounts I have read. I know of a teacher who is germinating plants on moon-like soil.

In this blog post by Natasha Schön, she talks about biomass measurements, and the first tomato that grew in martian-simulated soil. Schön explain the need for more work on this:

One of the follow up experiments will be to investigate if the produced seeds are viable. It would only make sense to cultivate crops on Mars or the Moon if the follow up experiments are a success and the seeds are able to form new plants. If the seeds are not viable, a constant stream of new seeds would have to be flown in, making Mars farmers highly dependent on seed deliveries from Earth. 

And yes, they also tried growing peas.

And to justify the bad pun (in the title of this post), there is a children’s book titled “Peas on Earth.”

I believe it has a sustainability angle!


Mars Day 2014 – Video

Thanks to the support from SRPMIV-TV, we had coverage from Mars Day 2014 that took place on October 29th at Salt River Elementary School.

This is the third year we have had this event, which has become a fixture on our school calendar. (Check out last year’s event!)

Once again, thank you to:

  • Mars Space Flight Facility
  • ASU: Professor Jack Farmer, Sheri Klug-Boonstra, Anthony Zippay, Leon Manfredi
  • Conrad Storad
  • HI-SEAS Mission 3 Crew: Martha Lenio, Allen Mirkadyrov, Sophie MilamNeil Scheibelhut, Jocelyn DunnZak Wilson
  • University of Hawaii at Manoa
  • School of Earth and Space Exploration, ASU

Field trips bring science to life

It’s hard to beat a field trip when it comes to showing students how science work in the real world. That world is often not too far from our class rooms. Two weeks ago I took some students to three mind-blowing science labs at Arizona State University.

Opportunity Wheel

Mars Rover – “Opportunity”

First Stop: The Mars Space Facility, a home of the Mars rover. We nudge closer to the model of the rover, Opportunity. The  students ask about those cameras, and solar panels.  They got to hear about what scientists such as Dr. Phil Christensen who work with JPL, see: raw images streaming in, some barely a  week old. They also see that titanium wheel, in context.

Mars Rover Curiosity - ASU - School of Earth and Space Exploration

Mars Rover – “Curiosity”

Next Stop: ISTB4, the building that’s home to the only full-scale model of NASA’s Curiosity, roughly the size of an SUV. It’s got more cameras and probes than you could shake a stick at.  My students have heard a lot about these rovers, during Mars Day. So this is a big deal! The nearest thing to kicking the tires of space science.


Third Stop: Decision Theater, a scientific visualization lab with floor-to-ceiling screens that render images in 3D. Indeed, urban planning and crisis mapping maybe a bit too heavy for third- fourth- and fifth-graders (esp at the end of a tour), but the students found the 3D model of the human brain (navigating through it, using a game controller!) mind-blowing.

I’m a big believer in field trips. Each year I take my robotics students to visit an organization that either uses robots, or is immersed in engineering that is directly or indirectly connected to the work they do in building and programming devices.

Huge thanks to Sheri Klug-Boonstra, Anthony Zippay and Cynde Garrett for making this happen!