A visit to Mars is almost guaranteed within the next decade or so, with everyone from NASA to warring tech billionaires setting their sights on the Red Planet. And long-term occupation may not be much farther behind.

But before we do, there are many obstacles to overcome, some highly technical. But one of them is a challenge humans have been tackling almost since our ancestors came down out of the trees: learning to farm in new places. And while we’ve never traveled so far from home before, there’s reason to be optimistic about our skills off-world.

Mars isn’t so dissimilar from Earth. From a cosmic perspective, they’re nearly twins. They have rocky surfaces, and they’re close-ish in size, composition, and gravity – about as good as we can get in this solar system. (Titan is probably a closer match, but it’s a lot farther away, which introduces its own problems.) Mars even has some water.

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