Elon Musk releases 15-page manifesto explaining how humans will colonize Mars

June 16, 2017 by  
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Long gone are the days of dreaming about space travel and seemingly impossible inventions, thanks to science and geniuses such as Elon Musk , fantastical goals are turning into everyday realities. In fact, Musk — the founder of PayPal, Tesla, and SpaceX — recently unveiled a 15-page paper that goes into great depth explaining how humans will successfully colonize Mars in the near future. Published in the journal New Space , the paper details the realistic costs per person, possible engineering challenges and even a timeline of transferring humanity to the Red Planet — which includes sending the first unmanned payload into space within two years. The paper, entitled “ Making Humans a Multi-Planetary Species ,” follows on the heels of Musk’s hour-long presentation last year in which he outlined his ambitious plan to transport humans to Mars. Though it is lacking in some specifics it is a compelling read and is available to the public for free until early July. As The Guardian reports, the founder of SpaceX is ambitious to colonize Mars in the potential likelihood of a nuclear war or natural disasters which cause Earth to become uninhabitable. To Musk, Mars is a “backup drive” for the planet we all live on now. “So how do we figure out how to take you to Mars and create a self-sustaining city,” Musk asks in the paper, in ”a city that is not merely an outpost but which can become a planet in its own right, allowing us to become a truly multi-planetary species.” His long-term goal is to create a self-sustained civilization of about one million people which, admittedly, will take about 40-100 years. Before full colonization can take place, however, much work needs to be done. After sending supplies to Mars beforehand, Musk envisions blasting off a gigantic spacecraft that can carry the first 100 passengers. “The thrust level is enormous,” Musk says in the paper. “We are talking about a lift-off thrust of 13,000 tons, so it will be quite tectonic when it takes off.” Regarding the timeline, Musk wrote, “We are going to try to send something to Mars on every Mars rendezvous from this point on. We plan to send Dragon 2, which is a propulsive lander, to Mars in a couple of years, and then probably do another Dragon mission in 2020.” Related: Send your loved one’s ashes to space – on one of Elon Musk’s rockets Colonizing the Red Planet might seem like a grand ambition — and it is, but Musk isn’t ready to stop there. He wants humans to be able to explore even more of the galaxy. As NewsAtlas reports , “He envisions a series of in situ propellant depots, from the asteroid belt to Europa or Titan, allowing humanity full access to the greater Solar System .” The engineer fails to mention where on Mars new settlements will be founded — a detail that is vital yet will likely be determined in the near future. Whether or not this vision will be made a reality in this century remains to be seen. What is clear is that Musk is one of the more extraordinary minds in our time who has played a big role in advancing humanity. + “Making Humans a Multi-Planetary Species” Via The Guardian , NewsAtlas Images via Pixabay

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Elon Musk releases 15-page manifesto explaining how humans will colonize Mars

Federal court rules Trump’s Dakota Access Pipeline approval violated the law

June 16, 2017 by  
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Injustice has been a common theme of the Standing Rock Sioux’s battle against the Dakota Access Pipeline , as they faced fines , water cannons in sub-zero temperatures , and eviction at gunpoint . But the tribe said this week they just won a ‘ significant victory ‘ in court that could be a game-changer. A federal judge said the United States Army Corps of Engineers did not conduct an adequate study of the environmental risks associated with the controversial oil pipeline  when the Trump administration rushed through its completion. Embed from Getty Images District Judge James Boasberg, who sits on the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, said in a 91-page decision the Corps “did not adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice .” It’s an important step that could set a precedent – but the judge did not order the pipeline to be turned off. Instead Boasberg asked for additional briefing, requesting attorneys appear again next week for a status conference. Related: Dakota Access Pipeline springs first oil leak – before completion According to The Atlantic , the case isn’t about the potential harm to the tribe, but whether the Corps adequately researched and reported on the risks before they approved the pipeline. The Corps reportedly did not study whether a spill would kill most of the fish in the river, or if the chemicals that might be used to clean up after a spill would poison animals. Many members of the tribe source their food from the fish or animals that could potentially be impacted if a spill were to occur. Embed from Getty Images Even though the pipeline hasn’t been shut off, the tribe is still celebrating victory. Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II said in a statement, “This is a major victory for the Tribe and we commend the courts for upholding the law and doing the right thing. The previous administration painstakingly considered the impacts of this pipeline, and President Trump hastily dismissed these careful environmental considerations in favor of political and personal interests . We applaud the courts for protecting our laws and regulations from undue political influence and will ask the Court to shut down pipeline operations immediately.” Via Stand With Standing Rock and The Atlantic Images via Wikimedia Commons and Becker1999 on Flickr

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Scientists create super-strong bricks from mars-like soil

April 28, 2017 by  
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Future Mars dwellers may actually be able to use locally-sourced materials for their buildings. Four University of California, San Diego engineers were able to press Mars-like dirt into bricks in a study funded by NASA . No other materials were necessary to keep the blocks together. And the bricks were incredibly tough – even more than steel-reinforced concrete . A high-pressure hammer helped the engineers pack dirt – with the same chemical composition and grain size and shape as soil on Mars – into strong bricks. Since storage will be limited on any craft carrying astronauts to Mars, they may be able to devote room to other equipment if they know they can construct habitats with the red planet’s resources. Related: Scientists use Martian dust to 3D print tools On Earth we typically have to employ some type of adhesive to keep construction materials together. But simulated Mars dirt actually has a chemical ingredient that helps bind it. Structural engineer Yu Qiao told The Verge the chemical ingredient “gives the soil strength when it’s compacted.” It may be feasible for humans to hammer out bricks on the red planet as well. NASA life sciences expert Jon Rask, not part of the study, told The Verge, “It’s really easy to swing a hammer on Mars. You can imagine a Mars explorer swinging a hammer to make strong building blocks.” The team worked with lunar soil in the past, when NASA aimed to go back to the moon . Lunar dirt requires a binder, but since the binder would have to be shipped from Earth, the team worked with the lunar dirt until they were able to take the binder content below the 15 percent construction materials on Earth generally require to just three percent. When NASA shifted its focus to Mars, the team did too, and decided to test their lunar dirt findings on Mars dirt. They first tried packing the dirt into blocks with six percent binder, and when that worked well, they decided to test the Martian dirt further and discovered it necessitated no binder whatsoever. The journal Scientific Reports published the engineers’ findings online yesterday. Via The Verge Images via the University of California, San Diego

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Scientists create super-strong bricks from mars-like soil

NASA unveils inflatable greenhouse for sustainable farming on Mars

April 27, 2017 by  
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A group of researchers from the University of Arizona, in collaboration with NASA scientists, have created an innovative inflatable greenhouse to help feed astronauts on other planets. The Prototype Lunar/Mars Greenhouse project would allow astronauts on deep space missions access to healthy, fresh food year-round. The greenhouse is made of an inflatable material and functions as a closed loop, integrated with the astronaut’s life support systems. The carbon dioxide released by the astronauts is used to support the plants, which convert it into oxygen while also providing a source of food. Water to grow the plants would be brought along or gathered on site, depending on whether the site had ice or liquid water nearby. Then the water would be oxygenated and infused with nutrient salts, continuously slowing across the root zone of the plants. The entire process is designed to mimic the resources that plants would have access to on Earth, in order to give them the optimal conditions for growth. Research is still ongoing to determine which plants, seeds, and other materials would be most suitable for use on the moon or Mars . Related: Trump plans to strip NASA’s earth science division, promote mission to Mars The plants would need to be protected from the harsh radiation of space on a planet without Earth’s protective atmosphere, so the greenhouses would likely be buried under the ground for protection, and the plants would be fueled by special lighting instead of natural sunlight. Scientists have had success both with LED lighting and light concentrators that use fiber optic bundles to channel natural sunlight from the outside. While the current experiments with the greenhouse are taking place on Earth, astronauts on the International Space Station have been experimenting with the practical challenges of growing food in space. NASA’s Veggie Plant Growth System was the first American fresh-food growth experiment on the station back in 2014. + Prototype Lunar Greenhouse

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NASA unveils inflatable greenhouse for sustainable farming on Mars

6 space farming projects that could save the human race

April 11, 2017 by  
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What will humans eat on Mars ? It’s a daunting question: the red planet’s frigid average temperature is around negative 80 degrees Fahrenheit and its thin atmosphere is comprised of 95.32 percent carbon dioxide . But not to worry, future astronauts. NASA’s on it, as are several other institutions worldwide. Inhabitat rounded up six exciting space farming projects revealing the progress scientists have made on the issue of sustainable space cuisine. Scientists grow potatoes in Mars-like conditions, justifying The Martian’s Mark Watney Scientists from the International Potato Center , NASA’s Ames Research Center , and Peru’s University of Technology and Engineering recently showed the 2015 movie The Martian may have not just been science fiction after all. Inside a CubeSat , a small satellite in which the scientists could simulate Mars conditions, they were able to sprout potatoes , the crop of choice for astronaut Mark Watney in the film. Their research shows maybe we could grow those tubers on Mars after all, but also could offer insight into how to cultivate crops here on Earth in climate change -impacted regions. Related: Six scientists just completed a year-long simulated Mars mission Scientists find four crops grown in Mars-like soil are edible Wageningen University scientists in the Netherlands have also been growing crops in Mars-like soil. They successfully cultivated ten crops – like tomatoes, rye, and peas – in dirt provided by NASA that came largely from a Hawaii volcano, but feared the resulting food might be filled with heavy metals . Further tests showed they didn’t have to worry quite so much: at least four of the crops do not contain heavy metals like cadmium, lead, or arsenic and are edible. The Wageningen team hopes to continue their research and raise more money for their project. Astronauts harvest lettuce on the International Space Station International Space Station (ISS) astronauts are in on the space farming effort too. In 2014, Orbital Technologies Corporation’s Veggie system was deployed to the ISS , and recently in late 2016, NASA checked in with space gardener astronaut Shane Kimbrough who has harvested multiple batches of lettuce on the space station. The experiment not only gives astronauts the chance to nibble on some rare fresh greens harvested every ten days or so, but will also further NASA’s knowledge of how different life forms perform in zero gravity environments. Self-contained greenhouse could grow plants with Earth air on Mars The Mars Plant Experiment (MPX) was a small, self-contained greenhouse with enough Earth air to last 15 days and around 200 seeds of the flowering plant Arabidopsis used often in research. The little greenhouse would have hitched a ride to Mars aboard a rover for the 2020 mission. One of 58 proposed experiments, MPX didn’t make the list of seven selected payload proposals NASA announced a little over two months after Inhabitat’s article, but it’s still an intriguing idea for how humans might go about growing plants on Mars. NASA Advanced Food Technology team designs over 100 vegan recipes for future Mars crew Forget freeze-dried ice cream. NASA’s Advanced Food Technology project took a healthier approach by looking into an entirely vegan diet for future space voyagers. They developed more than 100 vegan recipes for a six to eight person Mars crew, featuring fresh fruits and vegetables possibly grown in hydroponic systems. Veganism wasn’t so much a ideological choice for the NASA team as a practical one: it would be difficult to store easily perishable dairy and meat products during the lengthy trip to Mars. Experts suggest kitchen garden for astronauts venturing to Mars All the way back in 2011, NASA was pointing to kitchen-style gardens as a solution for astronauts, realizing pre-packaged food alone probably wouldn’t cut it for deep space missions. Speaking at an American Chemical Society gathering, scientist Maya Cooper of NASA’s Space Food System Laboratory said chefs and horticultural experts could help devise a plan for producing the over 7,000 pounds of food required for the five year journey to Mars. Experts identified 10 likely candidates for a spaceship kitchen garden: cabbage, spinach, herbs, carrots, strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, spring onions, radishes and lettuce – of course we’re now growing that last plant already on ISS. In just over five years, scientists have come a long way in developing space farming , and we’re excited to see what innovations crop up in the upcoming years as humanity prepares to go to Mars. Images via Pixabay , Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Food for mars and moon Facebook , NASA , NASA/JPL/Cornell University , Wikimedia Commons , and NASA

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China announces aim to be a major space power by 2030

December 29, 2016 by  
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China is making up for lost time in the space race. The China National Space Administration recently released a white paper outlining their ambitious plans for the next five years, which includes launching a Mars probe by 2020, enhancing their satellite systems, developing pollution-free medium-lift launch vehicles, and searching for extraterrestrial life. China’s space agency started in 1956, but they didn’t launch their first satellite until 1970, the year after the United States put a man on the moon. Yet China’s audacious goals for the next five years reveal the country’s revitalized dedication to exploring outer space. Related: China completes world’s largest radio telescope to search for alien life In the white paper preamble, the agency said, “The Chinese government takes the space industry as an important part of the nation’s overall development strategy, and adheres to the principle of exploration and utilization of outer space for peaceful purposes…In the next five years and beyond China will uphold the concepts of innovative, balanced, green, open, and shared development, and promote the comprehensive development of space science, space technology, and space applications, so as to contribute more to both serving national development and improving the well-being of mankind.” A 2020 Chinese Mars probe could execute what the agency refers to as orbiting and roving exploration. From there they hope to bring Mars samples back to Earth, explore asteroids, and explore Jupiter. In a press conference, agency deputy chief Wu Yanhua said, “Our overall goal is that, by around 2030, China will be among the major space powers of the world.” Yanhua also spoke of cooperation with other countries’ space agencies, but don’t look for NASA on that list yet. The United States Congress hasn’t allowed NASA to work with China since 2011, citing concerns over national security. While American politicians have feared militarization, other international agencies, like the European Space Agency, are already collaborating with China . The country mentioned peace – either peaceful space exploration or contributing to world peace – 14 times in the English translation of the white paper. Via China National Space Administration and CNN Images via Pixabay and Wikimedia Commons

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Old potato barns come back to life as a pair of modern and stylish homes

December 29, 2016 by  
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An old potato barn doesn’t sound like an appealing place to live, but Eindhoven-based Houben & Van Mierlo Architecten managed to work their magic and transform those spaces into modern and stylish abodes for two families. Located in the rapidly developing Amsterdam Noord neighborhood, the pair of neighboring buildings were gutted and transformed with contemporary materials and furnishings; however, the architects preserved much of the open-plan layout and the industrial character. Although the two transformed potato barns sit side by side, they were built during different times. One barn was built using hybrid construction techniques in the Second World War, while the second barn was constructed in the 1960s using steel construction, wooden floors, and a concrete stone facade. Despite their differences, both homes were gutted, extensions removed, and revamped into airy loft-style living spaces that celebrate the original barn constructions , from the raw steel structures to existing timber boards. Related: Former factory site in rural Amsterdam to be reborn as a modern neighborhood In addition to housing for two families, the renovated barns also include a new in-house photo studio for the famous photography duo Scheltens & Abbenes who helped realize the modern finish of their house and studio interior. “In the arrangement of these spaces, the original constructions of the barns have remained visible,” write the architects. “Together with the new plastered cement screed floor, they define the basic character of these interiors. Furthermore, the finish is simple yet stylishly designed and realized, whereby the characteristics of a robust industrial past go hand in hand with a modernist interior of art and design fittings.” + Houben & Van Mierlo Architecten Via ArchDaily Images via Houben & Van Mierlo Architecten

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Old potato barns come back to life as a pair of modern and stylish homes

7 NASA discoveries that will blow your mind

June 29, 2016 by  
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1. A second mini moon circling Earth The moon has figured prominently in our culture, popping up in songs, poems, and literature throughout the centuries. So NASA’s confirmation that there’s a second moon piqued the curiosity of the masses. Asteroid 2016 HO3 is between 120 to 300 feet in diameter, and really needs a better name so the poets can start composing. While the tiny asteroid likely didn’t enter the scene until about 100 years ago, NASA scientists anticipate it will continue to orbit Earth for several more centuries. 2. 1,284 new planets discovered by Kepler 4.302 exoplanets. That’s the staggering number delivered recently by the Kepler space telescope, and NASA determined 1,284 of those could likely be classified as planets . Past that, 1,327 might be planets too, but the agency needs to research them a little further to officially slap a label on them. On top of all that, the same study confirmed 984 other space objects are also planets. Sifting through these large numbers produces more exciting numbers: out of all of these planets, about nine could potentially support life. It’s the ” largest number of exoplanets ever identified at one time .” The universe we know just got a whole lot broader. 3. Six Earth-like planets that might be able to accommodate life Are we the only sentient beings in the universe? It’s a question typically asked by conspiracy theorists and science fiction authors; NASA’s not known for chasing aliens and UFOs. But the Kepler mission aims to discover terrestrial planets , especially those that might have water and might be able to support life. Before the massive amount of exoplanets were discovered, the Kepler mission identified six other planets in the ” habitable zone ” of their suns . Two are rocky like Earth, and three could contain liquid water. Science Mission Directorate associate administrator John Grunsfeld said, “Each result from the planet-hunting Kepler mission’s treasure trove of data takes us another step closer to answering the question of whether we are alone in the Universe.” Sounds like maybe they could be searching for aliens after all. 4. Flowing water on Mars When we think of weather on Mars , we usually imagine freezing cold temperatures. Usually we’re right; the red planet’s temperature hovers around -80 degrees Fahrenheit most days. That’s one reason why NASA’s discovery of water on Mars was so riveting. Apparently during the summer time, temperatures can swing up to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, which is plenty warm enough to thaw ice . The agency said they now think ‘rivers’ of water flow intermittently on Mars. Water is one of the keys to supporting life, and while Mars may not have enough water now, it’s an exciting sign that maybe, just maybe, the planet could someday support a colony of humans. 5. Astronaut pee recycled into sugary drink NASA’s discoveries come not only in the form of second moons and habitable planets, but also in advances to help astronauts thrive in space. The agency developed ” forward osmosis ” technology to transform pee into a sugary drink. Old urine filters required tons of electricity to function, but the new product relies on a semi-permeable bag, performing marvelous feats without needing much energy. In space, every inch matters, and the forward osmosis technology would not only save room, but allow astronauts to reuse even their own pee. Talk about a win for long space journeys – like a mission to Mars. 6. Monkey-like robot designed for rescue missions NASA’s also tackling robotics . Researchers at their Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) designed a robot that’s reminiscent of a monkey , called RoboSimian, for search and rescue missions in environments dangerous for humans. JPL entered the monkey-like robot in DARPA’s Robotics Challenge, where robots entered had to drive a vehicle, open a door, open a valve, use a power drill to cut a hole, navigate difficult terrain, and walk up stairs. Maybe real monkeys typically don’t use power drills or drive vehicles, but RoboSimian was up for most of the tasks . While the robot ultimately stumbled over a few of the jobs, like moving a plug between sockets, in a competition with 22 entrants it still placed fifth. 7. Ice volcanoes on Pluto One mind-blowing discovery isn’t so much a discovery as it is a confession: we know so little about Pluto . We’ve known for many years the planet is extremely cold, but the New Horizons mission has provided loads new information about the dwarf planet that reveals there’s still much to learn. Here’s that thought summed up in two words: ice volcanoes . There are two mountains near Pluto’s south pole that appear to have depressions at the peak, kind of like a volcano. NASA thinks they might have formed when ice, ammonia, methane, or nitrogen erupted, so the agency has started referring to them as “cryovolcanoes.” We’re still not quite sure if they are indeed ice volcanoes, but NASA’s working on answers to the mysteries of Pluto, so stay tuned for future mind-blowing discoveries. Images via NASA/JPL-Caltech , NASA/W. Stenzel , NASA , NASA , NASA , NASA/JPL , and NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

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Monarch butterfly populations are multiplying

June 29, 2016 by  
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Monarch butterflies are finally on the rebound. With the colorful pollinators threatened by everything from pesticides to habitat destruction, the U.S. government pledged $3.2 million to the cause last year. Back in March, a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Mexico survey found reason for hope, showing a substantial population increase in migration numbers. But the butterflies aren’t in the clear just yet. According to University of Chicago professor Marcus Kronforst, in 1996 around one billion monarchs migrated, but in 2013 there were just 35 million. The March WWF Mexico survey revealed the insects were rebounding, with numbers rising to roughly 150 million. More milkweed planted has played a part in the rebound, as has weather that suits the butterflies. Related: 8 Ways that you can help save monarch butterflies Natural Resources Defense Council scientist Sylvia Fallon recently told Reuters they are hopeful about curbing butterfly losses. But, she warned,”we must be careful not to declare victory too soon.” She was all too right. Researchers from the United States and Mexico utilized drones and satellite images to uncover evidence of illegal logging in Mexico’s Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage site . They published a paper in American Entomologist , in which they report around 25 acres of trees have been chopped down in the last year, destroying important habitat. Mexico environmental officials arrested 35 loggers in early to mid 2015, but landowners claim logging has been ongoing despite the arrests. The researchers began to grasp the scope of the illegal activity through imagery. Sweet Briar College professor Lincoln Brower, lead author on the paper, told TakePart, “You can’t have huge trucks removing all of this wood without knowledge of what’s going on. It really questions the governance of the reserve.” Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation Endangered Species Program Director Sarina Jepsen said that monarch conservation efforts have centered around the problems of pesticides and planting milkweed, but that we shouldn’t forget butterflies also battle deforestation . Via TakePart and Reuters Images via Wikimedia Commons and Luna sin estrellas on Flickr

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Monarch butterfly populations are multiplying

Plants grown in Mars-like soil are officially declared edible

June 27, 2016 by  
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Back in March, scientists from the Netherlands’ Wageningen University successfully grew ten different crops in Mars-like soil provided by NASA . But there was a catch: they couldn’t eat the food. They worried it contained heavy metals like cadmium and lead, which were present in the Mars soil stimulant. Well, good news: further research determined at least four of the crops do not contain dangerous heavy metal levels and are therefore edible, getting us one step closer to life on the Red Planet. The Wageningen team, led by ecologist Wieger Wamelink, tested radishes, tomatoes, rye, and peas. They tested the crops for cadmium, lead, aluminium, nickel, copper, chrome, iron, arsenic, manganese, and zinc. None of those compounds appeared in dangerous levels, and Wamelink said the results are “very promising.” Some of the heavy metal concentrations detected in the food were even less than those found in plants cultivated in regular potting soil . The plants were also tested for vitamins, alkaloids, and flavonoids. Related: Scientists are growing ten different kinds of crops in Mars-like soil While we don’t yet know whether NASA or Mars One will reach the red planet first, both entities support the research. NASA provided the soil stiumlant, mainly from a Hawaii volcano. Mars One co-founder and CEO Bas Lansdorp said in a press release, “Growing food locally is especially important to our mission of permanent settlement, as we have to ensure sustainable food production on Mars. The results of Dr. Wamelink and his team at Wageningen University & Research are significant progress towards that goal.” A crowdfunding campaign is still going, and that money will allow Wamelink’s team to test the other six crops, including potatoes. You can donate here until the end of August. If all the vegetables grown contain heavy metal amounts lower than those stipulated by the FDA and the Dutch Food Agency, Wamelink’s team will host a “Martian dinner” at the Wageningen greenhouse. + Can we safely eat plants grown on Mars? Images via Bryan Versteeg/Mars One and Food for mars and moon Facebook

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