With the recent discovery of water on Mars and the release of the movie adaption of Andy Weir’s gripping book The Martian the red planet is grabbing everyone’s imagination.
If you’re anything like me I’m sure the number one question on your lips is “is it possible to grow cannabis on Mars?”. Let’s take a look at the facts.
When setting up a grow on Earth the main factors that you need to take into consideration are, light, growing medium, good genetics, nutrients, temperatures, water and humidity level. Growing on Mars throws a few more issues into the mix. Asides the remote location and extreme travel costs there are a few other things to bear in mind. Here’s some of the biggies, low atmospheric pressure, high radiation levels and 40% Earth’s gravity.
It’s clear that if humans are to survive on Mars they’re going to need food. Luckily for wannabe martians NASA’s been working on greenhouses fit for Mars for a few years. These pages on NASA’s site (last updated in 2003) cover experiments on a Mars greenhouse called the Mars Dome.
Light would be an issue, as Mars is 49 million miles further away from the Sun than Earth. Sunlight on Mars would be more or less like daylight on Earth during a slightly overcast day. Cannabis grown in these conditions may experience some stretching as it searches out the light. The resulting buds may not be so dense so don’t expect a spectacular yield. I recommend sticking to indica dominant strains.
As for growing medium, I think we’d stick to hydroponics for this experiment. Which means potentially a greater yield and avoids contaminating Mars with microbes. We’d have to ship the nutrients over which would increase travel costs further. If we do this we need to make sure that we don’t overfeed the plants and must ensure that we flush them of excessive nutrients before harvest to avoid an unpleasant taste and sore throat when burning.
Atmospheric pressure is less than 1% of Earth’s which means any water within a plant evaporates almost immediately. According to molecular biologist Rob Ferl, director of Space Agriculture Biotechnology Research and Education at the University of Florida even if plants were given all the water they needed they would still respond as if they are in a drought due to the movement of the water out of the plant. The conclusion back in 2004 was that they should bioengineer the plants to cope in such conditions.
Fast forward to 2015 and things have moved on. Rather than finding ways to modify plants genes so they can grow in near zero atmospheric pressure NASA’s been working on pressurized greenhouses and plans to get them to Mars by 2021. They even have a prototype.
These proposed greenhouses will be pressurized, heated and have supplemental lighting, not only that, they will also be growing the plants hydroponically. Now we’re talking.
At -62°C, Mars is cold, so they better be packing some good greenhouse heaters to keep the cannabis at the 27°C it finds comfortable.
On a positive note, a Martian year is twice as long as Earth’s so the growing season would be longer. If you were growing autoflowering plants you’d be able to squeeze in a couple more crops per year, which is good as the winter would be twice as long too. Another plus would be that there are no spider mites, powdery mildew or bud rot to deal with. Though I would not be at all surprised if spider mites could survive the harsh conditions of Mars.
To answer the question, in theory, we should be able to grow weed on Mars, but it’d be pricey, would have a low yield and it wouldn’t be organic. Oh and it’d be radioactive, so there’s that.
Mars has less than half the mass of Earth so whatever your end harvest is it’ll weigh 40% of what it would back home. Which kinda sucks given all the effort that went into the grow.
I think I’ll stay on Earth.