Florida scientists have found that tomatoes can grow on Mars

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Florida scientists have found that tomatoes can grow on Mars

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For two years, Drew Palmer has been working with 15 students to figure out how to grow tomatoes in the harsh conditions found on Mars.

“Cause I was like, ‘From Heinz? This is some kind of prank thing. I’ll come back to it,’” Palmer said. “And then I read it and said, ‘This sounds legitimate.’”

When he first got the email, he thought he was being punked.

Story Highlights

  • The tomato masters themselves, Heinz, are also behind the project.

  • Heinz ketchup has been enjoyed by earthlings for more than a century. And now, the ketchup is going where no condiment has gone before — Mars.

While legitimate, Palmer said he knew it would be a daunting project. Mars is freezing. The planet has an atmosphere of mostly carbon dioxide.

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By experimenting in a controlled greenhouse, fertilizing the Martian-like soil, and using artificial light, they actually did it. “When we got the first set of flowers, and we saw the flowers were going to make fruit. Yeah, we celebrated a lot,” Palmer said.

Heinz celebrated by putting the tomatoes in a special ketchup they call “Marz Edition.” Even if you don’t think we’ll colonize Mars one day, there are places on Earth where crops don’t grow and the same science can be applied, scientists say.

“Showing that you can do this provides a little bit of insight and technologies we can use here on Earth as well,” Palmer said. Either way, it’s one small step for man and one giant leap for the food industry.