'A garden on Mars' crowdfunding campaign starts today
Today, 13 students at Leiden University have started a crowdfunding campaign to collect money for research into the possibilities of growing crops on Mars. Their research will contribute to the knowledge of our galaxy. The project is in the context of the iGEM competition.
Food for Martians
Martian soil contains a toxin known as perchlorate, which causes all crops grown to be toxic to humans. If we manage to land men on Mars in the near future, this is a problem that will have to be resolved. It is not possible to take adequate supplies of food, and crops therefore have to be grown as a sustainable source of nutrition. The students are developing a bacterial system that will break down perchlorate and at the same time release much-needed oxygen in the process: a win-win situation for future Martian explorers. The bacteria will do their work in the enclosed environment of a bioreactor with Martian soil.
Students and the public work together to enable research
The project is completely student led and student run. This includes financing their own materials, including perchlorate, simulated Martian soil and laboratory disposables. State-of-the-art techniques are used, including Martian gravity simulation. The students hope to finance a part of the costly project through crowdfunding. Communication is a key aspect of the project and the students are presenting their project at events, including the Night of Art and Knowledge on September 17.
International science competition
The students’ research is part of the world’s biggest competition in synthetic biology: the international Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition, organised by the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In total, over 300 teams are participating in the competition, using synthetic biology to solve a problem of their own choosing. The results will be announced at the end of October 2016 at the Giant Jamboree in Boston.
The crowdfunding starts on 22 August 2016 and will continue until the students travel to Boston on 27 October. Their target is €8,600, the amount they need to complete their research.