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Can you grow lettuce on Mars?

Jan 05, 2015

A team of students hope one vegetable will boldly go where no plant has gone before.

If green blobs are seen on the red planet in the future, they might not be an alien species, but something with roots nearer to Earth. That’s if a group of students from University of Southampton manage to grow a lettuce on Mars, having designed a greenhouse containing lettuce seeds which can be transported to the planet on a lander planned to launch in 2018. The seeds will be frozen for the journey, and then will hopefully germinate when LEDs to provide heat and light in the greenhouse are powered after landing, with the carbon dioxide plants need extracted from the planet’s atmosphere. Photos will also be taken so the students can watch the lettuce grow, although no-one will actually be able to taste it, since the greenhouse and its contents will be destroyed on Mars to avoid contaminating the planet.

This won’t be the first lettuce in space, as NASA planted some in special fertiliser bags on a spacecraft last year, and the students hope their experiment will also provide important information about how future space explorers could grow their own food rather than relying on supplies. While they are sure the greenhouse and Martian atmosphere can provide enough light and nutrients for the lettuce to survive, the students themselves need your help to get the experiment off the ground. The lettuce is one of ten experiments in a competition to be taken on the lander being sent to Mars by the Mars One Foundation, with the winner being decided by a public vote

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