Growing Potatoes on Mars: Is It Possible Like in The Martian Movie?

Could we grow potatoes on Mars, like in the movie “The Martian”? This question has been asked by many people since the movie was released in 2015. In the movie, the main character, Mark Watney, grows potatoes to keep himself alive while stranded on Mars. He uses his own feces as fertilizer and manages to grow a successful crop. But is this really possible?

Scientists have been conducting experiments to determine if it is feasible to grow potatoes on Mars. According to CBS News, researchers at NASA and the International Potato Center have successfully grown potatoes in harsh Mars-like conditions. They used soil similar to that found on Mars and simulated the planet’s atmosphere and temperature. The results were promising, showing that it is possible to grow potatoes on Mars.

However, growing potatoes on Mars would not be easy. The soil on Mars is not suitable for growing crops, and the planet’s atmosphere is not conducive to plant growth. Additionally, the extreme temperatures and radiation levels on Mars would make it challenging to maintain a sustainable crop. Despite these challenges, scientists are continuing to explore the possibility of growing crops on Mars, including potatoes.

Mars Environment


Mars has a thin atmosphere with a surface pressure of only 1% of Earth’s atmosphere. The Martian atmosphere is primarily composed of carbon dioxide, with small amounts of nitrogen and argon. The thin atmosphere means that Mars has very little protection from harmful radiation from space.


Mars is a cold planet, with an average temperature of -80 degrees Fahrenheit (-62 degrees Celsius). The temperature on Mars can vary widely depending on the location and time of day.

During the day, temperatures can reach up to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius) near the equator, but at night, temperatures can drop to -100 degrees Fahrenheit (-73 degrees Celsius).


The soil on Mars is very different from Earth’s soil. It is rich in iron, magnesium, and sulfur, but lacks organic material and nitrogen. Martian soil is also very dry, with a low pH and high salinity.

It is not suitable for growing most Earth plants without significant modification.

Mars Soil
Mars Soil

However, recent experiments have shown that it is possible to grow potatoes in Martian soil under simulated Martian conditions. Scientists in Peru successfully grew a small potato plant using a simulator that mimics the harsh conditions on the red planet.

This experiment shows that it may be possible to grow crops on Mars in the future, but more research is needed to determine the best methods for doing so.

Potatoes as a Crop

Nutritional Value

Potatoes are a good source of carbohydrates, fiber, and vitamins. They are also rich in potassium, which is essential for healthy bodily functions. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), a medium-sized potato contains about 110 calories, 2 grams of protein, and 26 grams of carbohydrates. Potatoes also contain small amounts of other essential vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C, iron, and magnesium.

Growing Requirements

As shown in the movie “The Martian,” potatoes can be grown on Mars. However, growing potatoes on Mars is not as simple as planting them in the ground.

The soil on Mars is not suitable for growing crops, so scientists must create a suitable environment for potatoes to grow. This can be achieved by using hydroponics, which is a method of growing plants without soil.

Hydroponics involves growing plants in a nutrient-rich water solution. This method is ideal for growing potatoes on Mars because it allows scientists to control the environment in which the plants grow.

The water solution can be adjusted to provide the optimal amount of nutrients and water for the potatoes to grow.

In addition to hydroponics, potatoes also require a specific amount of light and temperature to grow.

On Mars, the temperature is much colder than on Earth, so scientists must create a controlled environment with the appropriate temperature and lighting conditions for potatoes to thrive.

Overall, growing potatoes on Mars is possible, but it requires a significant amount of planning and resources. However, if successful, it could provide a sustainable source of food for future missions to Mars.

Challenges of Growing Potatoes on Mars

Radiation Exposure

One of the biggest challenges of growing potatoes on Mars is the high levels of radiation. Mars does not have a protective magnetic field like Earth, which means that the planet’s surface is exposed to high levels of cosmic and solar radiation.

This can damage the DNA of plants and cause mutations that could be harmful to humans if consumed. To protect the plants from radiation, they would need to be grown in a greenhouse or other enclosed structure that provides shielding.

Limited Resources

Another challenge of growing potatoes on Mars is the limited availability of resources. Mars has a thin atmosphere and no liquid water on its surface, which means that all resources, including water and nutrients, would need to be brought from Earth or extracted from the Martian environment.

This would require a significant amount of energy and resources, which could make it difficult to sustain a long-term potato farming operation on the planet.

Long Growing Seasons

The Martian environment is also harsh and unpredictable, with extreme temperatures and dust storms that can last for months.

This could make it difficult to maintain a stable growing environment for potatoes, which require consistent temperatures and sunlight to grow.

Additionally, Martian day is longer than Earth’s day, which means that potatoes would need to be grown under artificial lighting or in a greenhouse with controlled lighting to maintain a consistent growing season.

In conclusion, while growing potatoes on Mars like in the movie “The Martian” is an intriguing idea, it poses several challenges that would need to be overcome to make it a reality.

Radiation exposure, limited resources, and long growing seasons are just a few of the obstacles that would need to be addressed to make potato farming on Mars a viable option for sustaining human life on the planet.

Potential Solutions

Greenhouse Technology

One potential solution for growing potatoes on Mars is using greenhouse technology. This would involve creating a controlled environment that mimics Earth’s conditions, including temperature, humidity, and atmospheric pressure. The greenhouse would also need to be shielded from the harsh radiation on Mars.

Greenhouse technology has already been used successfully in space, with the International Space Station having a small greenhouse where astronauts have grown lettuce and radishes.

However, scaling up this technology to grow crops on Mars would require significant advancements and resources.

Genetic Modification

Another potential solution is genetic modification. By modifying the genes of the potato plant, scientists could create a strain that is better suited to the harsh conditions on Mars.

This could include making the plant more resistant to radiation and able to survive in low-nutrient soil.

However, genetic modification is a controversial topic, and there are concerns about the potential long-term effects of altering the genetic makeup of a plant.

Additionally, it would take significant research and development to create a genetically modified potato plant that could survive on Mars.


Hydroponics is a method of growing plants without soil, using nutrient-rich water instead. This could be a potential solution for growing potatoes on Mars, as it would eliminate the need for nutrient-rich soil.

Instead, the potato plants would be grown in a nutrient-rich solution within a controlled environment.

Hydroponics has already been used successfully on Earth, and it has the potential to significantly increase crop yields while using less water than traditional farming methods.

However, scaling up hydroponics technology to grow crops on Mars would require significant advancements and resources.


While the idea of growing potatoes on Mars like in the movie “The Martian” may seem exciting, the reality is that it is a complex and challenging endeavor.

There are several factors that need to be considered, including the harsh Martian environment, the lack of atmosphere, and the availability of resources.

However, recent research has shown that it is possible to grow plants on Mars, including potatoes.

Scientists have been experimenting with different techniques, such as hydroponics and aeroponics, to overcome the challenges of the Martian environment.

One of the biggest challenges is the lack of nutrients in the Martian soil. However, as demonstrated in “The Martian,” it is possible to create fertile soil by using human waste as fertilizer.

This technique, known as “biosolids,” has been successfully used on Earth and could be adapted for use on Mars.

Overall, while growing potatoes on Mars may not be as easy as it was portrayed in the movie, it is certainly a possibility. With continued research and experimentation, we may one day be able to establish sustainable agriculture on the Red Planet.