Mars has been an attractive interplanetary target since the dawn of spaceflight, but now that the travel technology is nearly ready, how are we going to fully attend to the human elements of colonization? Researchers in England have made one small step (well, bite) for mankind by planning to launch a crop of self-initiating lettuce to Mars.
|Learn more at #LettuceOnMars.|
(Image courtesy bis-space.com.)
The tasty terraforming is planned to work like this: during the slated Mars One robotic mission in 2018, a self-sustaining greenhouse will be launched from Earth (as part of an array of other science experiments.) The garden will "hibernate" during the long travel to Mars, with lettuce seeds safely frozen and equipment powered down.
Upon arrival on Mars, the lander will provide a small amount of energy to help power and aid the heating elements of the garden, keeping the temperature between 21C and 24C. The lettuce seeds will be fed with carbon dioxide extracted from the Martian atmosphere (which is rich with the gas), and given other nutrients via aeroponic sprayers. This eliminates the need for the plants to be grown in conventional soil, and if successful, could prove to be viable for a host of other food flora to be grown on the red planet.
|Image is not scientifically accurate, but you get the idea.|
(Image courtesy cdn.studentmoneysaver.co.uk.)
Photographs sent back of the space salad will inform the scientists of success. As any prospective human colonists on Mars as currently considered to be making a one-way trip, the need for a constant on-planet food supply will be of critical importance.
Project leader Suzanna Lucarotti, from the University of Southhampton, explained the many diverse elements of the idea, telling the Metro, "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."
It might not be filet mignon, but it's a good first step in sustaining our next generation of astro-adventurers.
|After a while, anything is better than the usual space paste. Here, two astronauts "enjoy" tubes of beet soup...wrapped in vodka labels. Maybe if an experiment can grow potatoes, some distilling can take place...|
(Image courtesy wikimedia.org.)