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Photo via Lettuce on Mars
Photo via Lettuce on Mars

One of the most necessary elements to building a human colony on Mars is the ability to, well, feed people.

Students from Southampton University are working on that. They have a lettuce-growing project they’re trying to get on Mars One, the project to develop a human colony on the Red Planet. If selected, their lettuce seeds will be among the equipment sent with the first unmanned mission scheduled to launch in 2018.

The scientists took to Reddit to discuss their project:

We’ve designed a greenhouse that could go to Mars and grow lettuce. We’ve submitted our proposal to Mars One as part of their competition for a spot on their lander in 2018, and if we win, we’ll get to do this.

In the Reddit discussion, the students revealed that they picked lettuce for a variety of reasons, including it’s efficiency at converting nutrients to edible material, and it’s easy to fit inside a greenhouse. In fact, experiments growing lettuce are already being conducted on Earth in Mars simulators.

The seeds will be frozen during their space flight, then placed in the Mars greenhouse, where the temperature will be a controlled 21 degrees Celsius, and light from the sun and LEDs will help photosynthesis. They expect lettuce to grow within four weeks of arrival.

The groups says they’ve already passed the technical round with their submission, they are one of 10 finalists, and now it’s up to popular vote who gets on board Mars One. You can vote for the project via Facebook, Google+ and Twitter.

While the robotic mission with supplies and such takes off in 2018, Mars One intends to start sending humans by 2024, with crews of four leaving every two years.

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