With the landing of the Mars Rover, many feel we’re closer than ever to establishing the first Mars colony – but there’s still the question of how to sustain humans on a dead planet. Fortunately, a group of Greek students have come up with a deployable greenhouse that could feed Mars settlers (assuming we could get them there in the first place). The project (called “Popeye on Mars”) has been named a winner in the NASA International Space Apps Challenge, a competition that seeks to engage thousands of people around the world in space exploration. Capable of producing fresh spinach in just 45 days, the dome-shaped aeroponic growing system could be used for pre-deployment on a space mission to the Moon or Mars.

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The basic idea behind Popeye on Mars is to create a greenhouse growing unit that could be sent to an otherwise inhospitable planet or moon to begin growing fresh food autonomously before humans arrive. Designed to be deployed near the equator of Mars, Popeye would take advantage of solar energy and a relative lack of inclement weather to form a self-sufficient growing system.

When first deployed, Popeye would look like a simple dome structure. Hidden within is a fully-equipped aeroponic growing system, including sensors and electronic systems needed to stabilize the internal environment and harvest oxygen produced by the plants.

“During the day, when the covers open and the PVPs [photovoltaic panels] are deployed, the greenhouse occupies a circle area of around 1.5 meters radius,” explain the designers. The panels collect solar energy to power the dome’s internal systems, and keep the spinach happy.

“Without human intervention, the greenhouse operates for approximately 45 days (spinach life cycle),” the designers continue. “This period can vary up to 65 days depending on the planted plants. After this period, the stored oxygen (O2) and the produced seeds are ready to be collected. After elementary maintenance and seeds planting, the greenhouse is functional again and ready for the next harvest.”

Popeye on Mars is entirely open-source, and plans can be found on Git Hub.

Via Mashable

Images via POM on YouTube