Sure, the Red Planet might seem like the last place you'd expect to find one with a green thumb (unless, of course, the rest if the bearer was little and green as well) -- but if Chinese space agency officials have their way, Martian soil could soon boast the Solar System's first extraterrestrial vegetable garden.
That's right. That salad you're currently eating may or may not contain relatives of Earth's first interplanetary ambassadors. Not to freak you out or anything.
According to the Bangkok Post, scientists from the Chinese Astronaut Research and Training Center have been testing technology with the intention of growing plants on other-worldly bodies:
Four kinds of vegetables were grown in an "ecological life support system", a 300 cubic metre cabin which will allow astronauts to develop their own stocks of air, water and food while on space missions, Xinhua news agency said Monday. The system, which relies on plants and algae, is "expected to be used in extra-terrestrial bases on the moon or Mars", the report said.
The reasons for planning vegetable gardens on our closest extraterrestrial neighbors are ultimately to make human life a bit more comfortable if and when we eventually arrive ourselves. "Chinese astronauts may get fresh vegetables and oxygen supplies by gardening in extra-terrestrial bases in the future," quotes the report.
There's no telling exactly when China plans to start troweling through the lunar or Martian soil, but officials have stated a goal of landing exploratory vehicles on the Moon sometime next year -- perhaps to scout for an ideal garden plot.