back to article Mars suitable for growing asparagus

NASA scientists are pretty excited about the initial results of the Phoenix Mars lander's "flawless" first wet chemistry experiment which has revealed the Red Planet's soil to be "a close analog to surface soils found in the upper dry valleys in Antarctica", as wet chemistry lead investigator Sam Kounaves put it. With 80 per …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Growing Asparagus on Mars

    Well, the farm land would be cheap, but the delivery costs astronomical.

  2. Anonymous John

    I for one,

    welcome our new asparagus-munching Martian overlords.

  3. LaeMi Qian

    Headline year 2048

    "First Mars Colony Up And Running - colonists declare 'our wee smells funny'"

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I prefer broccoli.

  5. Patrick

    A good way to look at Mars

    Looking at planets as a place that is or is not suitable to grow food is much better than looking at planets as sources of minerals.

  6. me


    Great! Another planet where Mexican lobor will be exploited.

  7. The Prevaricator

    soil for growing strawberries...

    Try Venus. Plenty of acid there...

    I just wish I could think of a valid reason not to go there and set up my plantation.

  8. Neil Woolford


    I thought the food miles from Peru to Worcester were a bit much. Especially when we can grow it well in the Vale of Evesham, a pushbike ride away...

  9. Sim

    @tw burger re :broccoli

    If you are planning to plant broccoli on Mars please ensure that the young plants are protected against pigeons

  10. Gerard O'Neill

    Why the obsession with destruction of property?

    Since one stone age tribe went over the hill and wiped out their neighbour to get the territory, we've blundered on regardless of consequences. Let's stop the destruction here and now. NO MORE!

    Nostradamus said that after the era called Armageddon, humanity would live among the stars and that's what we should be aiming at.

    Just beyond Mars is a ring of minerals. A rough guesstimate, is around one and a half to two Earth sized planets worth.

    Orbiting Jupiter is a snow ball half the size of the moon.

    Using this material to construct a ring-world that encircles the Sun halfway between Earth and Mars and being five kilometers (int.) diameter, would provide enough comfortable living space for the next several hundred years, if not a lot more. We travel to other systems using this method of colonisation and the definite probability of extinction because we INVADED the wrong system is extinguished. We become the best new neighbours and are embraced.

  11. Mark Spooner


    The next gourmet import?

  12. Chris C

    Not quite

    "At this point, we can say that the soil has clearly interacted with water in the past"

    Talk about ignorance and arrogance. No, you *CANNOT* say that the soil has "clearly" interacted with water in the past. We're dealing with an alien planet whose history is completely unknown to us. At the very most, you can say "If the mineral/chemical/whatever interactions occur on Mars as they do on Earth, then it appears that the soil has interacted with water in the past". But since we don't know how the Martian soiil interacts with anything, you cannot "clearly" determine anything about its past. Using assumptions as the basis for your findings of "fact" isn't a good idea.

  13. Kevin Kitts
    Thumb Up


    the new little green Martian. :)

    Ironically, that could be useful in producing some oxygen and terraforming Mars a bit prior to settlement. Create a satellite module that specifically orbits Mars in a spherical pattern and spreads asparagus seeds all over the planet. Those that survive have found water beneath the soil somehow, and begin to break down the local crust into the beginnings of soil.

    Of course, this won't be necessary by the time we can colonize Mars. We'll have fusion-powered bulldozers by then.

  14. Kanhef

    @ Chris C

    It's not "completely unknown"; we've been dropping probes on it for the last 30-odd years, and chemistry works the same way everywhere. Some of the minerals they've found can only form in the presence of water, so they can confidently say that water has been there at some point in the past.

    @ Gerard O'Neill:

    Ringworlds look nice in science fiction, but are problematic in real life. The amount of energy needed to move your raw materials into position is prohibitive. There's also almost no gravity, and so no atmosphere.

  15. P. Lee

    @Chris C

    You are undermining the basis of a great deal of current science.

    Science Article of Faith #1: Everything is basically the same as we see it now and subject to the same processes we know of now.

    Its an "operating assumption" because without it you can't theorise about what you don't know and call it truth. For example, its how we "know" about climatic events "millions of years ago" when we aren't even sure how our current climate operates. As soon as you admit that something might have happened that we don't know about, you have exposed your scientific theory as an educated guess (however good it is) and undermined science's claim to truth.

    Flames - because you'll end up at a stake if you aren't careful!


    ps. I know, most scientists are very careful about saying exactly what their study deals with and what its limitations and parameters are. Nevertheless, conclusions often seem to extrapolate wildly from the evidence actually involved.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Welcome back...

    ...reserved for amanfromMars and his disciples icon, we've missed you.

  17. Mark

    @ Chris C

    I think that data includes the detected putative permafrost, and water erosion-like features of the landscape. They think that the water is released every few million years by volcanic activity, and that sometimes Mars may have oceans.

    OK, none of it is proof, but there is a lot more evidence for liquid water interactions than you allow, so I guess you can forgive them for forming a hypothesis?

  18. Maliciously Crafted Packet
    Thumb Up

    Great! I love Asparagus...

    Steam the tips for about 2 - 3 minutes. Mix it in to some freshly cooked pasta, add olive oil and lemon juice along with some grated parmigiano-peggiano. And if your feeling greedy add a chopped hard boiled egg. Add pepper to taste. Yum!

    Sounds like life on Mars could be good... Wonder if the soil will support grape vines so we can make decent wine to go along with the above. Something like a Château Doisy Vedrines 2003 Barsac, 2ème Cru Classé would go down nicely.

  19. Chris G


    Gerard you are clearly not on a diet consisting of only asparagus.

    If you spread out the material you mentioned around earth's orbit of the sun which is around 940,000,000 km then you get a very thin ring world, more of a wire world really. One of the features of Larry Niven's ring world is about max efficiency in the use of solar power, the surface area of your proposition is too small to be of any use. In reality, if, we had the technology to do something like this we would have to use most of the available material in the solar system, and more paddies in the construction gang than Ireland can currently supply.

    As far as asparagus is concerned on Mars we first need Arnie to go and release the atmosphere as the current àir´available is not quite up to agriculture.

  20. Solomon Grundy

    @Gerard O'Neil

    Don't you think that dragging gigantic rocks into orbit around an inhabited planet is a bit dangerous? Those things fall out of sky you know.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Chris C

    Now that we have some idea of the composition of the soil, combined with data already collected regards the makeup of the atmosphere we can say with a fairly high degree of certainty that the soil has interacted with the water.

  22. Murray Pearson

    @ Chris C

    We *CAN* assume that the laws of physics, and thus chemistry, apply; it's a totally reasonable statement.

  23. De

    Greetings earthlings

    So the first Martians to visit earth are going to be plants? Well, can't say I have seen that in any sci-fi before.

  24. Beelzeebub

    Assumptions instead of facts

    Isn't that the Large Hadron Collider?

  25. Charles Smith

    Smelly Pee

    I've always wondered why Martians had smelly pee. Now I know.

  26. Omer Ozen


    I can see Germans forming an orderly queue (not!) for the first shuttle trip to Mars.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just an obligatory...

    ...'oh it's so much better in Spain comment', really no, we kiss each other whilst planting la asparagusa...

    Oh dear you frightful ingleses... I move here 10 yrs ago from la Birmingham.. so much better than Mars, Wales etc, me, I ne-e-ver go back innit.

    ad nauseam...

  28. Steen Hive


    "Using assumptions as the basis for your findings of "fact" isn't a good idea."

    Assuming that the basic laws of physics and inorganic chemistry apply on Mars would seem to be a rather excellent idea,

  29. Ethan Cinquetti

    Go right ahead and mock.

    Sure, it's all My Turn at Darts and Where's My Pint, Love until the tripods show up.

    Mark my words, the Earth will yet bow down to a vegetable.

    That's why we've been practicing over here in The States.

    @Gerard: We're on it, as soon as we finish mopping up our nasty little Klingon Problem. One civic work at a time...

  30. Edward Hull

    re: Gerard O'Neill

    "Just beyond Mars is a ring of minerals. A rough guesstimate, is around one and a half to two Earth sized planets worth.

    Orbiting Jupiter is a snow ball half the size of the moon.

    Using this material to construct a ring-world that encircles the Sun halfway between Earth and Mars and being five kilometers (int.) diameter, would provide enough comfortable living space for the next several hundred years, if not a lot more."

    I think you are going to need a lot more raw material than that for your ring-world, probably an order of magnitude or more additional material.

    What do you mean when you say internal diameter? 2+au would probably be more realistic internal diameter (hole). whereas the thickness of the ring would probable have to be significantly larger than 5km for stability sake (In proportion to the circumference, 5km is nothing).

  31. Joerg

    In practice NASA/JPL debunked themselves and 60+ years of false claims and lies....

    If asparagus can grow on Mars it clearly means, by simple logic, that there is life there, that plants, animals and alien beings of any kind surely exist there.

    In practice now they have confirmed the existence of life and aliens but nothing happens. No one is questioning them. No one is requesting full raw data now and censoring to end. Why ? Humanity seems lost with no clue of what is really happening, no one seems to understand what is really going on and the fact that this is just like an official statement of the existence of aliens.

  32. Joe Cooper

    Asteroid belt

    There isn't that much material in the asteroid belt. It's not like in Star Wars. You CAN look it up and even do that math yourself. You obviously haven't.

  33. Tom

    sensible titles

    Why do you insist on lying in your headlines? I expect it is for financial reasons, but it comes across as attention seeking and underhand.

    Mars is not suitable for growing asparagus.

  34. Marvin T Glass

    perhaps venus was once earthlike and one day mars will be too

    what if venus was where earth was and inhabited by our fore fathers. Just as we will inhabit mars as it slowly moves into earths current orbit.

  35. Gurtrude Mullinger


    "So the first Martians to visit earth are going to be plants? Well, can't say I have seen that in any sci-fi before."

    Day of the Triffids?

    ...pic 'cos they blind you!

  36. The Aussie Paradox
    Paris Hilton

    @Ethan Cinquetti

    I, for one, welcome our plant overlords...

    Oh wait, they get voted into Government now?

    Dictatorships are so not what they used to be.

    Paris, cause I would vote for her to be a dictator!

  37. Chris C

    @ Kanhef

    "chemistry works the same way everywhere"

    Really? How can you definitively state that? Have you (or anyone else) been "everywhere" and performed the necessary tests and calculations to determine this? How very arrogant to assume that anything will work the same on another planet as it does here on Earth. You know, there was a time when people thought (and stated it as a fact) that the Earth was the center of the universe -- unless they were proven wrong.

    @ Murray:

    "We *CAN* assume that the laws of physics, and thus chemistry, apply; it's a totally reasonable statement."

    WHY can we assume that the laws of physics, and thus chemistry, apply the same everywhere? Simply because it's convenient to do so? Or simply because we haven't been told otherwise? We are still learning about physics and chemistry here on Earth which constantly changes our understanding (and thus our "laws" of physics and chemistry).

    The very notion of science is to find truths using facts. One of the most important principles is that you do NOT assume anything. Anything based on assumption cannot be called fact or truth. As stated above by P. Lee, an observation based on assumption can be a very good educated guess, but not fact. If you like to assume things, let's ask NASA how helpful assumptions were with the Mars Climate Orbiter when Lockheed Martin assumed (and thus used) imperial units when sending data to the orbiter instead of metric units.

  38. The Aussie Paradox

    Oh no, it has started!

    New just in. Killer Asparagus has arrived on Earth. See the following news article:,23599,23944678-29277,00.html

    I would like to re-enforce my allegiance to our Asparagus Overlords and williing to offer human sacrifice to appease them.

  39. Ludwig Werner
    Black Helicopters

    Grateful learner

    At age 91, one may be forgiven one believes to be able to say (politely!): "Now I've seen and heard everything..."

    Not true, I find to my surprise.

    Often I wondered why that ferocious bird of prey is pecking at what follows in print below its representation.

    Now I know, it is shredding the truth to threadbare slivers.

    And look what happens, new "matter" appears in front of my nervously blinking eyes...

    Think aloud, and often, boys and girls, remember, that's how " we" became human people instead of remaining simians.

    I see now I'll have to book for 200 more years of Life to ingest all the newness of science.

    Anybody got an idea whete that booking office is?

    Thanks, wating with bated breath.

  40. Stephen

    @Edward Hull

    I think he's suggesting a smaller scale version of an orbital as described by Ian M Banks, not Niven's ringworld. A much more feasible engineering project. (Halo featured an orbital). Though of course still mind-bogglingly huge.

    The point though is that once you're in space there's no pressing reason to start heading back down into gravity wells.

  41. James Pickett
    Thumb Down

    Peace, man

    "We become the best new neighbours"

    Hmm - past behaviour would suggest otherwise, I fear.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Re: Growing Asparagus on Mars

    @TW Burger

    "Well, the farm land would be cheap, but the delivery costs astronomical."

    You know, I'd swear they made that same joke in the article....

  43. stuart meadowcroft


    And what's going to stop the puncturing of your ringworld by flying debris then? eh? EH?

    "Oh no, there goes the atmostphere. Again!"

    And what about any unfound life-forms in those asteroids or that frozen snowball? Bad Karma man.

  44. Anonymous Coward

    "I'll be back.... Now eat your greens"

    As a species we haven't managed to put a foot on Mars. Can we now assume that our vegetable supply will ultimately be under the control of our machine over-lords?

    My kids will be delighted.

  45. Chris

    Greenhouses required first though...

    Have any of you seen the temperatures on Mars?

    Currently, phoenix shows a 'high' of -31 deg. C.

    Growing deep frozen asparagus more like...

  46. Stjohn Roe


    So that is what the canals were for.

  47. Anonymous Coward

    Eat you asparagus dear...

    But mommy, its alien!

    I'll get my coat...

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Chris C

    You are a troll and I claim my 5 pounds.

    Contrary to your antediluvian understanding of the state of current scientific knowledge (where "knowledge" is defined as ability to make confirmable predictions) we *do* know enough to state that chemistry works the same "everywhere", at least out waaay past local galactic space, ditto physics (as far as we understand it).

    For chemistry to work differently, the underlying constants of the physical world would have to vary. Since we can observe distant objects obeying the rules we understand according to the constants we have measured it follows that the constants and rules do not change in ways outside our understanding (except where we don't actually understand yet, but that's at a much larger than chemical scale and so not relevant to your ignorant maundering).

    There is no reason for chemistry on Mars to work in any way differently from chemistry on Earth; if chemistry or physics was different, its systems would malfunction: batteries, fuel cells, solar cells, motors, thrusters, parachute deployment charges - they all worked. So chemistry and physics work the same there as here.

    Now get back under your rock and learn something about what science can tell us about the universe.

  49. Joseph Gregory
    IT Angle

    Education, Economics, Extinction

    De said: So the first Martians to visit earth are going to be plants? Well, can't say I have seen that in any sci-fi before.

    Not seen 'Day of the Triffids' yet?

  50. Unkle Al


    What about "The Thing (from Another World)" with James Arness as the murderous vegetable ?

  51. Mike

    @Chris C

    You're a very odd man who obviously just likes a scrap, or just tries to use flawed science to defy logic (or perhaps more likely flawed logic to defy science).

    Q. Can we assume that the laws of physics and chemistry are universal, no matter where you are?

    A. Generally yes, there is no reason to believe that chemicals will react differently just because you're on Mars.

    Chemistry and physics do work universally, within certain parameters, those parameters (atmosphere, gravity, known chemical compositions) are all known about so unless there's something that we don't know and have been unable to detect (some kind of cloaked wormhole or twist in space-time?) it is a fair assumption.

    When Chris says "We are still learning about physics and chemistry here on Earth which constantly changes our understanding (and thus our "laws" of physics and chemistry)." Don't be misled, most of the time we discover *new* things which expand our understanding (carbon nano tubes, using diamond for computer chips, new plastics etc.) rarely (if ever, in modern times) do the "laws" change, I suspect burning hydrogen in the presence of oxygen will never produce chicken gravy.

    Chris isn't a complete idiot, It's a valid question to ask, "will this work the same off earth?" but thanks to the thousands of experiments carried out in space and on the moon and on mars, the answer is "can't see any reason why not", so Chris, your question has been answered and "will this work the same off earth?" is now as valid as "will this work the same on Brighton beach or in the corner of my living room?"

    I suspect that Chris likes to promote doubt into science, is it a fact to say "if I drop a hammer off a building it will fall to the ground?", the laws of physics say yes, so some would state it's a fact, it will hit the ground, but what Chris is saying is that it's possible that the hammer could just hang there, and no amount of arguing will make him change his mind that it might not hit the ground.

    ps. There's no god either.

  52. phil

    @Chris C

    Yes we can. Physical & chemical laws operate the same in London as in Sydney, in Earth orbit, and on the moon. Otherwise none of our lunar astronauts would have made it home.

    Any astronomer will tell you that spectral analysis of light from stars can be used to determine their size, temperature, composition and the nature of the fusion reactions occurring in them - none of which would work if the physical laws at the location of the star did not match the physical laws we find on earth.

    So how is it that you think that Mars will be any different to the rest of the universe? Occams razor alone says that the simplest option - that there will be no difference - is probably the correct one.

    Oh, and one more thing.... hahahahahHAHAHAHAHAHAHAhahahahahah...

  53. Alistair

    All we need now is a scallop farm and hollandaise factory

    Sadly the red planet is seriously lacking in Nitrogen. Game over for our would-be vegetable overlords.

  54. Mark

    Mike and Phil

    He's trying to edge doubt of scientists into this. Three possibilities (none of which are mutually exclusive)

    a) AGW denialists. The more he can make the science look bad the better for his arguments against AGW

    b) Tobacco. The more science and correlation in complex systems is brought into question, the more likely it is to get "smoking causes cancer" kicked out

    c) God botherer. Pesky scientists keep finding things out in ways that don't require a god. This lessens god as the gaps he can exist in get smaller. So rubbish them and fuzz the gaps and god gets a bigger appartment.

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