Southampton U Project Will Grow Lettuce on Mars, But Don’t Expect NASA to Offer Martian Salads Just Yet.



How about some backyard gardening on Mars? Growing vegetables there would do something to improve the vista of the red planet. It would be great to see some green patches there, don’t you agree?

And according to project leader Suzanna Lucarotti at the University of Southampton: “To live on other planets we need to grow food there. No-one has ever actually done this and we intend to be the first.

The project is a pioneering effort whose main purpose is to raise living things on Mars. The plan is to grow the lettuce in a greenhouse utilizing the planet’s atmosphere and sunlight to this end. The university has chosen 10 projects for the planned Mars One Landing which is scheduled three years from now in 2018. Their project was the only one chosen from among the many in the UK.

“This plan is both technically feasible and incredibly ambitious in its scope, for we will be bringing the first complex life to another planet.

“Growing plants on other planets is something that needs to be done, and will lead to a wealth of research and industrial opportunities that our plan aims to bring to the University of Southampton.

“We have tackled diverse sets of engineering challenges, including aeroponic systems, bio filters, low-power gas pressurisation systems and fail-safe planetary protection systems and then integrated them all into one payload on a tight mass, power and cost budget.”

The project is appropriately called £LettuceOnMars. Nobody will put up the green house there nor plant the lettuce manually. Everything will be prepared here on Earth and will be included on the Mars One payload. The greenhouse, seeds, water, fertilizers, and the equipment for atmospheric management and electronic tracking device are all included.

What will happen on the journey to Mars is that everything will be put in a state of hibernation and the seeds will be freeze-dried. Upon arriving and after making a safe landing, Mars One will begin to activate its power generator and this will supply the necessary energy to keep the heating elements running at a temperature between 21C to 24C.

There won’t be a problem with the supply of carbon dioxide since it can be easily sourced from the Martian atmosphere and supplied to the greenhouse for the use of the plants. The CO2 will undergo processing before being allowed for use.

The technique for growing the lettuce is called aeroponics. It uses mainly oxygen and nutrients to grow the plants. Water will be used in a controlled manner and soil is not required.

The expectation is that the environment will create favorable conditions for the plants to start growing. Then photos of the lettuce will be transmitted, hopefully, back to earth for everyone to see and watch while the lettuce develops from seeds to fully grown vegetables.  After the objective is reached, the heat will be increased in order to kill the plants inside the cargo hold.

What, no salad from Mars?



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