There's not enough oxygen on Mars for us to breathe. The water is trapped in ice caps, and the soil is alkaline and dry. But up on that red planet, there's the potential for growing hops, the plant that gives beer its delightfully sharp, sour taste. That ought to make it feel more like home.
The hops discovery came by way of a college science experiment at Villanova University, where a professor of astronomy and astrophysics challenged his students to grow food in Mars-like conditions, reports . Some students tried to harvest sensible plants like soy beans, potatoes (à la The Martian, minus the poop), and kale. Another enterprising group went straight for what matters: hops for "Martian beer," as Professor Edward Guinan said. (He wasn't about to allow anyone to try growing marijuana.)
The science experiment was successful—almost all of the students' plants thrived, including the hops and especially a mesclun greens mix. It's an easy experiment to replicate, too; you can that resembles Mars', tinker with its acidity level and fertilization, and weaken sunlight with screens to make the garden comparable. Guinan just presented the findings at an American Astronomical Society meeting, so they might help scientists figure out how to feed humans once we finally get to the Martian surface. And two students are following it up with more experiments, including an attempt to grow barley to go with those hops.
Now, let's get NASA (or SpaceX) to hurry up with these Mars colonization plans. There's a whole new interplanetary breed of hoppy craft beer to be brewed.