In July MarsOne launched a competition for a payload space on the MarsOne lander that will be launched in 2018. The competition has now reached its final stage. Following the technical review round, only 10 finalists remain from the original 35 proposals.
We're lucky enough to be one of them and we need your help to get our payload on Mars! The final round is a popularity contest.
Voting has now closed, thank you for all of the support! You can find our pages at:
Vote for: "Mars Micro-Greenhouse"
There are two ways to vote for us on Mars One, either by subscribing to their newsletter or directly on the Mars One page (if you are a registered supporter):
Our objective is to demonstrate the ability to grow small plants with gases obtained from the Martian atmosphere, with a minimum of material imported from Earth. Proving that plant life can thrive in the controlled greenhouse environment and that the resources within can be appropriately managed is an important step towards demonstrating that a human colony will also be able to survive.
During cruise the payload will be powered down and inactive. The lettuce seeds will be frozen. The journey will take around 7 months.
When it has landed, heaters surrounding the growth chamber will maintain a temperature of 21-24°C. Mars has a temperature of -63ºC and pressure one hundredth of Earth's.
Carbon Dioxide will be heated and pressurised from the Martian atmosphere. Oxygen will be produced by electrolysis of water brought from Earth. Some water with dissolved nutrients will be vaporised in the growth chamber.
These conditions will start seed germination. Light from both the sun and LEDs in the top of the greenhouse will enable photosynthesis. Throughout their growth sensors will transmit regular telemetry back to Earth. In addition, photographs taken by the camera located inside the growth chamber will be used to provide a visual record of the growing lettuce.
The lettuces will take approximately 4 weeks to grow to full size. Photographs taken by the camera inside the growth chamber will be transmitted back every day along with sensor data.
Upon completion of the mission and following a pre-determined signal, the heaters will be activated at higher power to exterminate all life in the payload, preventing any possible contamination risk.
Mars One is a not-for-profit foundation that aims to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars by 2026.
Its next step is sending a demonstration lander to Mars in 2018 to prove existing technologies. It is on this lander that we will be demonstrating our payload.
The team is composed of members of the University of Southampton Spaceflight Society, studying a range of subjects from Biological Sciences to Engineering (from right to left, bottom to top):
Lettuce is a widely studied species that has already been successfully grown in closed environments both on Earth and in orbit. It is edible, uses space efficiently, can be transported to Mars as a durable seed, and can be harvested at full size after one month of cultivation, making it ideal for this project and future colonisation.
Even though lettuce is not the most nutritiously rich plant, by studying its growth on Mars we are opening the doors for other richer plants, such as tomatoes and strawberries, to be transported and cultivated on a foreign planet.
We intend to destroy the life at the end of our experiment as one of our precautionary measures to ensure we completely prevent the possibility of any release of biological material to Mars.
As a responsible visitor to Mars, we need to make sure we do not allow any biological material to escape into the Martian Environment and mislead future scientists searching for life.
Sunlight is about 50% as strong on Mars as on Earth. Since the Martian day is just 40 minutes longer than our own, light conditions are comparable to our overcast winter days, which is sufficient for plant growth. However, this is still not optimal, therefore we are adding a backup LEDs to boost the light, and allow a more rapid growth of the lettuces. LEDs are the best lighting technique for this purpose since we can select to light the lettuce only with wavelengths that are required for photosynthesis. Find out more about growing lettuce using LEDs
Dust storms are the most notable weather condition on Mars. Planet-wide storms blocking out 99% of sunlight for several days happen about once in every 3 years, while local storms tend to occur during the spring-summer season on the planet. Although plants will survive a few days with less light, they might grow long and pale trying to reach sunlight. This can be prevented by slowing down the chemical processes in the cells for example by reducing the temperature by a few degrees Celsius.
Since our payload is very small, power consumption is not as big a concern as for larger greenhouses. We will use the LEDs to increase the light level and keep temperatures constant, provided enough energy is available.
Settling of dust on the growth chamber will be reduced by equipping it with a curved top. To protect our air processing system from being blocked by dust, the gases from the Martian atmosphere will first pass through a dust filter.Find out more about dust storms on the Mars One website
The Mars One 2018 lander will land on the northern plains of Mars, between 40 and 50 degrees latitude, which have a low elevation. This plain is believed to have contained an ocean in the distant past; today the atmospheric pressures there are higher and more conducive to human settlement.
The colour relief map indicated possible landing positions outlined in yellow, and dots indicate US lander sites.Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State University
It isn’t likely! Curiosity is at least an eighth of the way around the Mars from the closest possible landing site of the 2018 lander.
According to Mars One, the temperatures in our payload will vary between -40ºC and 35ºC during the voyage from Earth to Mars. This is comparable to the temperatures experienced in Siberia, and is a much smaller range than what is found on ISS, which goes approximately from -120ºC 120ºC
Seeds are often stored frozen, with some seed banks storing their samples at -200C. Lettuce seeds are regularly stored at -80 degrees Celsius at the University of Southampton, and still germinate well afterwards.
Our biggest concern is that we do not yet have information how much the temperature of the payload will change during flight. Frequent variations in temperature will damage the seeds and reduce the probability of germination. With further development we will have more information on how the temperature will change to estimate the impact on germination and and insulate our payload appropriately. To increase the probability of germination, our payload will include several seeds.
The external structure of the greenhouse will be made out of aluminium, the transparent sections of polycarbonate.
We chose aluminium 7075, a material popular in flight applications, because of the good strength it has while still being light. 7075 indicates that the material is an alloy, in addition to aluminium small amounts of other materials are contained, the largest additional component is Zinc. Polycarbonate was selected based on the durability of the material, and its excellent optical properties