The World’s Oldest Wine-making Country Wants to Make Wine on Mars

The World’s Oldest Wine-making Country Wants to Make Wine on Mars

The World's Oldest Wine-making Country Wants to Make Wine on Mars Absolute Knowledge
Image Credits: Smithsonian Magazine

Scientists of Georgia are trying to grow grapes in Martian conditions to provide wine on the red planet.

Life on Mars is always been painted as a harsh one with trouble all around. There’s radiation, unstable temperatures, and dust storms to name a few. Humans will need to leave behind a lot of luxuries of the Earth in order to move to the neighboring planet. Having said that, if you love wine, the scientists of Georgia have got your back because they are trying to figure out different ways to grow grapes on Mars. The project is called ‘IX Millennium’, seemingly after Georgia’s ninth millennium in viticulture. This project will begin later this year and is expected to be completed by 2024, just in line with Elon Musk’s SpaceX program to send a crewed mission to the red planet.

Why Wine?

While Mars may not be the ideal farming location, scientists hope to hydrate entire settlements on Mars if this project is successful. The research involves developing an entire infrastructure to cultivate grapes. Nikoloz Doborjginidze, the Founder of the Space Research Agency of Georgia, referred to this idea by saying,

“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.”

NASA has already experimented with growing potatoes in Mars-like conditions. Georgian scientists want to take it to the next level with the production of wine on the planet. The entire idea was put forward when sustained human presence on Mars was being proposed. The idea of colonizing Mars is not limited to just food and water. Air, medicine, exercise, communication, and social life are all key components for establishing human life on the red planet.

How will Viticulture be Simulated on Earth?

Vertical greenhouses will be installed in a hotel in Tbilisi. Floor to ceiling pods of soil and seeds will be grown under hydroponic lights (energy efficient lights used for indoor plant growth stimulation). Once this setup is complete, human interaction will be limited to the minimum level, where scientists will do nothing but observe. In addition to that, Georgian wine experts are also trying to determine which type of grapes will be most suitable in Martian conditions.

A Martian environment is being simulated in Tbilisi Business Technology University by exposing soil to thin air, high Carbon Monoxide levels, and pressure like that found at 20,000 feet in the atmosphere. These experiments are likely to show results by 2022. Levan Ujmajuridze, the Director of Georgia’s Vineyard Laboratory, expressed hope that white grapes could survive in such hostile conditions. He said,

“Whites tend to be more resistant to viruses. So, I’d imagine they’ll do well against radiation, too. Their skin could reflect it.”

The challenges don’t end there because nobody really knows how fermentation will work in the gravity on Mars.

Other Crops

Grapes are not the only thing being experimented for growth in an alien environment. Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) have started growing salad crops in zero gravity environment. China’s Chang’e-4 Lander which was recently launched will attempt to grow potatoes on the Moon. In 2011, a batch of Ardmore Scotch Whiskey was sent on the ISS. By 2014, the whiskey tasted of “Antiseptic Lozenges”, which suggests that microgravity destroys even the best of scotch. In 2017, Anheuser-Busch, the makers of Budweiser Beer, launched three batches of barley to study the effects of microgravity and radiation on the beverage. The beverage was launched with a SpaceX cargo mission on 4th of December. The company hopes to be the ‘first beer on Mars’. 

While the entire grape growing process will be automated, most of the fermenting and bottling will be done manually by humans. Students at Villanova University in Pennsylvania were provided with Martian soil to experiment with and the results showed that hops and rye grow well using the appropriate fertilizers. Meanwhile, a group of research students at a US university has discovered how to grow hops on Mars, paving the way for interplanetary agriculture.

The Bottom Line

If the research goes on at the current rate, space wine may become a reality sooner than expected. In the near future, we may see entire farms on Mars, cultivating the food for the ‘Martian Humans’. Once that is settled, the human race can start colonizing the red planet. Imagine a day when you will sit down and relax (after terraforming on Mars) with a glass of Mars-grown wine. Now that’s a future worth living in!

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