Seed Wins the Mars One University Competition to Germinate Life on Mars in 2018

Mars One Press Release: Amersfoort, 5 Jan. 2015:

Mars One is proud to present the winner of the Mars One University Competition: Seed. The Seed team is an important step closer to sending their payload to Mars. The winning payload will fly to the surface of Mars on Mars One’s 2018 unmanned lander mission. Seed was selected by popular vote from an initial 35 university proposals and this is the first time the public has decided which payload receives the extraordinary opportunity to land on Mars.

Photo courtesy of Bryan Versteeg and Mars One.

Photo courtesy of Bryan Versteeg and Mars One.

“We were generally very pleased with the high quality of the university proposals and the amount of effort associated with preparing them,” said Arno Wielders, co-founder and Chief Technical Officer of Mars One. “Seed itself is uniquely inspiring since this would be the first time a plant will be grown on Mars.”

The Winning Team – Seed aims to germinate the first seed on Mars in order to contribute to the development of life support systems and provide a deeper understanding of plant growth on Mars. The payload will consist of an external container, which provides protection from the harsh environment, and interior container, which will hold several seed cassettes. The seeds will stem from the plant Arabidopsis thaliana, which is commonly used in space plant studies. After landing, the seeds inside the cassette will be provided with conditions for germination and seedling growth. The growth will then be recorded using images transmitted back to Earth.

“We are really pleased to be the selected project among so many excellent ideas. We are thrilled to be the first to send life to Mars! This will be a great journey that we hope to share with you all!” said Teresa Araújo, Seed team member.

Seed consists of four bioengineering students from the University of Porto and two PhD students from MIT Portugal and the University of Madrid. The team is supported by Dr. Maria Helena Carvalho, plant researcher at IBMC and Dr. Jack van Loon, from the VU Medical Center, VU-University in Amsterdam, and support scientist at ESTEC-ESA. Seed benefits from scientific and technical support from several advisers, whose expertise range from biological systems to spacecraft development and validation. Read more about Seed here.

An in-depth technical analysis of the winning proposal will be conducted to ensure that the winner has a feasible plan and that their payload can be integrated on the 2018 Mars lander. Mars One and its advisers will contribute to the analysis by thoroughly and critically examining the Seed proposal.

If Seed runs into any issues regarding feasibility or can not stick to the schedule, Mars One will fall back on the runner ups of the university competition. The second and third placed projects are Cyano Knights and Lettuce on Mars.

More information

About Mars One

Mars One is a not-for-profit foundation that will establish permanent human life on Mars. Human settlement on Mars is possible today with existing technologies. Mars One’s mission plan integrates components that are well tested and readily available from industry leaders worldwide. The first footprint on Mars and lives of the crew thereon will captivate and inspire generations. It is this public interest that will help finance this human mission to Mars.

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4 Responses

  1. Will the 2018 flight fly? We now have just over three years to wait. I hope they make it because the event will spotlight Mars again. However, the financing is still uncertain. If they find the money and don’t bleed too much of it off into their for-profit affiliate, then they may achieve lift-off. The lander must still spend months in space and set down safely. The orbiter also must enter orbit and make contact. This is a non-trivial exercise.

    The Seed project is not particularly better than the others. I rated its likelihood of success at 2/10 because of problems with extreme temperatures. I don’t really expect it to last the first night, assuming that all other aspects of the project function correctly.

    These people are smart, knowledgeable, and motivated. They should set up a complete simulation of this experiment on the Earth. Let’s say that you ignored the radiation as not being important for such a short experiment. Creating a cold environment is easy. Emulating the sunshine is also no problem. Achieving a 1% vacuum with almost pure CO2 should pose no serious issues. The 38% gravity can readily be achieved for plants with a very slowly rotating platform tilted at 22°.

    Furthermore, once you set up this test chamber, you can try out dozens of plant varieties at little additional cost per variety. You won’t be guessing about which seeds to send, which is what is happening now. You’ll also know how long to expect germination to take under these unusual conditions, not a given in the circumstances.

    Come on, Seed people! Get going with the Earth-bound version. Show us that you know what you’re doing. Find a plant that can grow on Mars — or show us that the Mars One conditions will not allow growth of plants. This is what science is all about.

    • RED ALGAE { Eukaryotes }
      the Eukaryotes belong to the taxon Eukarya or Eukaryota. The defining membrane-bound structure that sets eukaryotic cells apart from prokaryotic cells (Bacteria and Archaea) is the nucleus, which contains the genetic material, enclosed by the nuclear envelope. usually its found in water and mars was once full of water , until it
      froze if we can melt enough ice the eukaryotes (red algae) ,might
      flourish one controlled neuclear explosion at a volcanic trench, just enough to start a terraform.

      • Your meaning is unclear. Mars must become warmer and wetter if algae are to grow outside of a sealed habitat. Not sure what nuclear explosions have to do with it. Please explain.

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