Featured image for The Space Race to Be the First Sauce On Mars Has Started With 'Heinz Marz Edition' Ketchup

The Space Race to Be the First Sauce On Mars Has Started With 'Heinz Marz Edition' Ketchup

by Rudy Sanchez on 11/11/2021 | 2 Minute Read

Packaging food for consumption beyond the confines of the big rock in space we call Earth is expensive, complicated, and limited by how much cargo vessels can carry. For extended missions on extraterrestrial environs such as Mars, food will have to be grown locally, as there’s no Amazon Fresh (yet) that delivers outside our atmosphere.

But you know that if food is going to have to grow off-planet, brands want in.

Food brand Heinz and astrobiologist Andrew Palmer from Florida Tech’s Aldrin Space Institute worked together for two years growing tomatoes for “Heinz Marz.” The team at Florida Tech simulated the conditions Martian settlers would likely encounter, such as the kind of soil, or regolith, that would be available, selecting the ideal Heinz seeds. Scientists used massive, make-your-weed-growing-friend-jealous LED lighting rigs, with temperature and irrigation tightly controlled inside a greenhouse nicknamed the “red house” by the team. Though the partners successfully produced tomatoes, the yield was not as high as researchers had hoped, demonstrating there’s still a lot of work to be done before space travelers can make their fries and ketchup on Mars.

Editorial photograph

“This process is pretty much in its infancy. And I think when we see things like The Martian, that has influenced a lot of people’s opinions of what we could do on Mars,” Palmer explained. “But that is not a documentary. The reality is that I firmly believe we can do this. I think we can grow in regolith on Mars. It’s just a matter of figuring out all the limitations.”

Astronauts might not be able just yet to grow food on Mars. Still, research into successfully harvesting food in less-than-ideal soil conditions also has applications on Earth, as Heinz Marz’s promotional video points out.

Corporate partner Heinz was less tempered than Andrew Palmer in its reaction, crowing over the achievement on its social media channels and proclaiming a new bottle of 57 had landed. A mockup of the packaging features a neck sticker with copy that reads “Out of this world” and “Marz Edition” on the main label. Heinz also placed the bottle alongside a foil pouch, which seems to be vacuum-sealed and containing another bottle of ketchup. The label on the silver pouch is technical-looking and minimal. It’s all just as well since only a select few at Heinz HQ will get to taste test Marz ketchup.

While ketchup may find a new home on Mars, it still never belongs on a hot dog.