Potatoes and poop: how did Mark Watney survive?


Jessica Xing

Mark Watney uses poop and potatoes to help himself survive on Mars.

In APES junior Alex Dunn and seniors Noam Fein, Avi Jain and Karan Jain decided to research if the potato patch Watney managed to grow in Mars was feasible with the mixture of martian soil and human waste.

“If you watch a movie about a guy living on Mars you start to ask how did he do it, how could he live for two weeks?” Karan said. “So we broke down the process into each individual questions and everyday we gave each other parts based on the question.”

For the presentation there were certain factors the group looked at. They asked themselves, what could be eaten on Mars? Would someone and how someone would grow it and what is stopping it from growing? What stops it from growing like it does on Earth? And what conditions would be ideal in terms of temperature, soil, and how effective would they be?

Click through the pictures to see more of their presentation!


“We learned about the main challenges people go through when they grow potatoes — one mainly being dust storms,” Avi said. “There are a lot of dust storms in Mars and it could mess up the equipment used to grow the potatoes. These dust storms occur every 3 hours so right now it is unlikely we can grow potatoes on Mars.”

Synthesizing all this this information, according to the group, required a lot of trial and error. According to Avi, sometimes the information they found would be disproven by a source they found later, so they had to constantly prove and re-validate the information they put together.

“Overall we learned that there’s always going to obstacles and challenges when learning something new,” Dunn said. “You have to take into account tons of different things before you could really understand what’s given.”