January 17, 2019 – The small country of Georgia, bounded on the north by Russia, on the south by Turkey and on the west by the Black Sea, is the cradle of wine. Justifiably proud of their 8,000-year wine history, the country is now embarking on research to find a suitable grape to produce wine on Mars.
The project known as IX Millennium was inspired by Elon Musk who in 2016 declared that his company SpaceX could launch the first manned mission to Mars in 2024, well ahead of NASA’s timetable of at least a decade later. 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, told the Washington Post, “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.”
How it will work
Planting vineyards is not quite how it will work. The vines, along with other fruit and vegetables currently being researched, will grow in vertical agriculture pods. However, various grape varietals are being tested to see how they withstand severe dust storms, a feature of the Red Planet, as well as radiation and wild temperature swings. Records show Georgia used to grow 525 different grapes but Soviet farming methods reduced that number to less than 20. All the abandoned varietals are now being revived, providing a vast gene pool. If you visit Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital later this year, a prototype of a vertical greenhouse will be installed in a hotel and presumably it will be open to the public. It will be left to grow under hydroponic lights with minimal human interference according to Live Science.