Students aiming to put the first life on Mars

December 10, 2014, University of Southampton

LettuceOnMars team
#LettuceOnMars, a student project from the University of Southampton Spaceflight Society, has reached the finals of an international competition, run by Mars One, to land experiments on Mars. It is now one of the ten short-listed university projects, and the only UK entry, that was selected for technical feasibility and popularity. The winning payload will arrive on Mars in 2018 together with the official Mars One experiments.

The aim of the Southampton project is to send a small greenhouse to Mars in which lettuce will be grown using the atmosphere and sunlight on Mars.

The team now need the votes of the general public to be chosen as the winner and realise their plan to grow lettuce on Mars. Voting is open now and closes on 31 December 2014.

Project leader Suzanna Lucarotti, says: "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. 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 failsafe planetary protection systems and then integrated them all into one payload on a tight mass, power and cost budget. We can build this here and now, the only step now is to win the public vote."

Explore further: Image: Kaleidoscopic view of Mars

More information: To vote for the team, vote #LettuceOnMars - details are on the team website www.lettuceonmars.com/

You can also follow them on twitter @MarsOneProject and on Facebook www.facebook.com/hashtag/lettuceonmars

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10 comments

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Tangent2
4.3 / 5 (4) Dec 10, 2014
I agree that it is good to see students involved in these sort of projects. The only concern about this is can the experiment guarantee that it will be fully contained, free from other microbes/organisms, and not contaminate the red planet. If they can truly accomplish this, then I say go for it.
Oysteroid
5 / 5 (5) Dec 10, 2014
Ages later, Martian scientists were wracking their brains trying to figure out how the first known complex life form - lettuce had evolved on Mars. Anyone daring to suggest an outside intelligence might have been involved was mercilessly chased off the campus fertile veggie patch to take root in the desert.
crazygail
1 / 5 (3) Dec 11, 2014
Living life in hamster tubes is that the future for mankind?
alfie_null
5 / 5 (4) Dec 11, 2014
Living life in hamster tubes is that the future for mankind?

Instead, how about cube farms, gridlock, evenings devoted to mindlessly absorbing synthetic TV programming?
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (4) Dec 11, 2014
Living life in hamster tubes is that the future for mankind?

If we intend to stay close to the current biological form and want to live anywhere besides Earth - yes.
_LettuceOnMars
not rated yet Dec 11, 2014
The only concern about this is can the experiment guarantee that it will be fully contained, free from other microbes/organisms, and not contaminate the red planet. If they can truly accomplish this, then I say go for it.


The University of Southampton runs professional courses for the European Space Agency and spacecraft industry. To make sure the only life we send to Mars will be lettuce we will get advice and feedback from academics and make use of the testing facilities.
Thereminator
3 / 5 (1) Dec 13, 2014
I understand that my opinion is not popular,but I'm less concerned with the natural history of mars and more concerned with advancing our capacity to Terra-form. So I am actually hoping for cross-contamination...and quite looking forward to meeting the (friendly but unsuspecting)leafy-green people of mars. : )
saposjoint
3 / 5 (2) Dec 13, 2014
No problem here, but I'd offer a caveat:

We have to look at the ices and clays and seeps with a microscope, not just an APS or GCMS instrument, and make wide areal searches *before* we try to terraform Mars.
saposjoint
1 / 5 (1) Dec 13, 2014
The only concern about this is can the experiment guarantee that it will be fully contained, free from other microbes/organisms, and not contaminate the red planet. If they can truly accomplish this, then I say go for it.


The University of Southampton runs professional courses for the European Space Agency and spacecraft industry. To make sure the only life we send to Mars will be lettuce we will get advice and feedback from academics and make use of the testing facilities.


How will you ensure that no virii are already incorporated in your lettuce strain? I assume you'll irradiate all the nutrients and growing medium, but there's always a corner where life hangs on, however tenuously.
_LettuceOnMars
not rated yet Dec 16, 2014

How will you ensure that no virii are already incorporated in your lettuce strain? I assume you'll irradiate all the nutrients and growing medium, but there's always a corner where life hangs on, however tenuously.


To avoid life hanging on to the lettuce, we will use laboratory strains that are thoroughly tested for virii during regular experimental use. The seeds will also be sterilised so no contaminants on their surface will survive.

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