Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Third place for Southampton bid to grow lettuce on Mars

Southampton students on Mars lettuce project Image copyright University of Southampton
Image caption The University of Southampton project was the only shortlisted UK entry in the contest by Mars One

A student group's bid to grow lettuce on Mars has finished in third place in an international competition.

The University of Southampton project was the only shortlisted UK entry in the contest by Mars One, which aims to establish a settlement on Mars.

The online vote's winning experiment, named Seed, aims to germinate the first seed on the Red Planet and is set to arrive on an unmanned craft in 2018.

Mars One said the Lettuce on Mars was a "fall back" option.

Lettuce on Mars project leader Suzanna Lucarotti said: "We are all disappointed we didn't win, but also excited that the winning team also want to grow plants on Mars, so whilst the plant will be different, the outcome is almost the same.

"This also means that should the winning team run into problems, we can easily step in and build our payload here in Southampton."

'Absolutely honoured'

In a statement on their Facebook page, the Lettuce on Mars students thanked those who voted and said: "Over the last month we had a great time trying to illustrate the challenges of space travel to a larger public audience.

"Now we have to focus on exams but we are looking forwards to more challenging space projects with our spaceflight society."

Project member Janki Shah said they would be "absolutely honoured" if Mars One selected them as a back-up plan.

Seed is a project by six students from the University of Porto, MIT Portugal and the University of Madrid.

Mars One said an in-depth technical analysis of the proposal would now be conducted to ensure it was a feasible plan.

A total of 35 proposals from universities entered the competition and 10 were shortlisted.

"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.

Mars One is a not-for-profit foundation that aims to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars.

It began the search for astronauts in 2013 and more than 200,000 people registered for the first selection programme.

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