Lettuce on Mars is a project designed by a team of students at Southampton University that aims to, you guessed it, grow lettuce on Mars, as a pre-emptive part of the Mars One landing, designed to send people to Mars by 2026. The U.K. students just did a Reddit AMA, and here’s what we learned about the project:
The Lettuce on Mars team is just one of several teams trying to get their project on Mars: The Mars One project, an organization based in the Netherlands that claims will be sending a colony of volunteers to live on Mars permanently in 2026, will be sending an unmanned probe in 2018. This pre-emptive part of the Martian colony mission will be carrying a project designed by a student team. You can vote for your favorite project here.
The lettuce will be incinerated once it reaches full growth: Yes, it sounds like a bummer, but it apparently was the only way that the project could happen without disturbing the Martian surface, and also because NASA has taken considerable pains to avoid sending anything alive to Mars as part of a 1967 treaty.
The lettuce seeds would be frozen during their trip to Mars: Martian travel doesn’t happen in the blink of an eye. The lettuce seeds will be frozen during their journey to Mars, and the growth of the seeds will happen entirely in space.
The lettuce would be grown using aeroponics: It’s like hydroponics, but grown in the air instead of water. According to the AMA, “we are growing these plants using aeroponics. So we are going to suspend the seedlings and spray them with a spray of nutrient rich water,” said a member of the team.
They aren’t the only ones trying to grow lettuce in space! NASA and SpaceX already have plans to use ultraviolet light technology to grow lettuce in a satellite that orbits the Earth.