Een groep wetenschappers en landbouwspecialisten uit Georgië onderzoekt of op de bodem van de ‘rode’ planeet Mars wijncultuur mogelijk is. Op die manier zouden kolonisten die zich op de planeet vestigen hun eigen wijndruiven kunnen verbouwen. Het team lX Millennium, met als basis Tbilisi, experimenteert met rassen waarvan wordt verwacht dat die in de specifieke bodem zullen overleven, meldt de Washington Post. De onderzoekers hebben daartoe een staats-wijntuin van 450 lokale en 350 buitenlandse druivenrassen ter beschikking. NASA denkt dat in 2034 een bemande vlucht naar Mars mogelijk is. Vragen die daarbij moeten worden beantwoord zijn hoe de druiven reageren op straling en stofstormen. The drinksbusiness meldt:
“If we’re going to live on Mars one day, Georgia needs to contribute. Our ancestors brought wine to Earth, so we can do the same to Mars,” said Nikoloz Doborjginidze, founder of Georgia’s Space Research Agency and an adviser to the Ministry of Education and Science, which is part of the wine project.
The team plans to build an Urban Vertical Greenhouse Laboratory in Georgia that will mimic the conditions on Mars, allowing it to determine the grapes most likely to thrive on Mars. NASA’s Phoenix Mars lander has analysed Martian soil in great detail, and scientists have since replicated its unique characteristics in order to test its crop-growing potential on earth. Generally, Martian soil can be replicated on earth with crushed basalt from an extinct volcano in California’s Mojave Desert. The process will be monitored by Business and Technology University, HP technical support and the European Space Agency.
Generally, the team anticipates that white grapes will fare better than reds, with one prospective variety Rkatsiteli, which is known for its high resistance to cold winters and hot summers. The effects of radiation on a grape will also be tested.
“Whites tend to be more resistant to viruses. So I’d imagine they’ll do well against radiation, too. Their skin could reflect it,” said Levan Ujmajuridze, director of the country’s vineyard laboratory.
Georgia isn’t the first to consider the alcoholic needs of future Martian colonists.
In 2017 Budweiser signalled its commitment to produce a space beer, sending barley into space in order to study how one of beer’s key ingredients responds to microgravity environments.
Budweiser has partnered with the Center for Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the organisation that manages the International Space Station U.S. National Laboratory, and Space Tango, which operates two commercial research facilities within the national laboratory, to conduct a series of experiments.
The barley was due to be carried on SpaceX’s cargo supply mission, launched on 4 December from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, and will remain in orbit for a month before returning to earth for analysis.
Budweiser has already positioned itself to become the ‘first beer on Mars’, with hopes that it will be the brew carried on board when Nasa eventually makes its first manned mission to Mars.
Elsewhere, a group of research students at a US university have discovered how to grow hops on Mars, paving the way for interplanetary agriculture.
Students at Villanova University in Pennsylvania were given a sample of Martian soil to experiment with, and found that hops and rye grow “fairly well” with the help of coffee beans and fertilisers produced back on Earth.