Mars Exchange
Food for Mars: Crowdfunding

Food for Mars: Crowdfunding

by Natasha Schön on Monday, 28th March 2016 in Food for Mars, People, Wieger Wamelink

This blog is about our crowdfunding campaign that starts the comic-con meeting in Rijswijk (The Netherlands). I attend every year and one of returning activities is to visit Jesse van Muylwijck, who is in the ‘De Rechter’ (The Judge), for a signed album. As always, the drawing he made for me is based on my work, which in this case is about Mars. This is the thirteenth post in a blog series about experiments conducted by a team of ecologists and crop scientists of Wageningen UR. The goal of these experiments is a proof of concepts for providing the first (human) Martians with ‘own-grown’ fresh food. Make sure to read our previous blog posts!

To finance a new experiment on how to grow plants on Mars (and the moon) we started a crowdfunding campaign. This is an uncertain adventure, not only for us, but for the whole university since this is the first time that they ever do this. One of the best things about crowdfunding is designing the presents for the funders. There is the standard, thank you card, which turned out beautiful. We have got a poster (50 euro), a small amount of Martian or moon soil simulant used in one of the earlier experiments (100 euro), and the photobook of last year’s experiment (250 euro small version, 1000 euro large version). The most exciting present is most likely the Martian meal we will serve at the end of this year’s experiment based on the vegetables we grow in the simulants, i.e. if they turn out to be safe to be eaten; the main topic of this year’s research. All funders will join in a tombola and the lucky ones will be invited to join us for the meal. Want to make sure that you will be the first to taste a tomato grown on Mars soil simulant? It is possible for 500 euros. So join us and be part of our adventure!

To support the crowdfunding campaign we had a press release about last year’s results on Alpha Galileo. Since the release, normal work has been impossible (for three weeks now!). The press really liked it, which resulted in a movie for CNN, The Huffington Post, and almost all English newspapers and other newspapers all over the world, two interviews for BBC radio, Russian TV and Dutch radio. After the papers and radio, the science magazines are busy writing about the experiment. A highlight is a nice piece in the National Geographic magazine. Hopefully, all the media attention will help us to reach our goal to raise the 25000 euro for this year’s experiment and will help us raise 9500 euros by mid March, but we are not there yet.

2016 Experiment
Meanwhile, the preparations for the 2016 experiments are well underway. This means ordering sand at Orbitec, handling seeds, and designing the new set up in the glasshouse. New rules apply for glasshouse experiments and therefore we have to order the seeds at a specialized company to make sure they are disease free. This is better for the experiments, even though this means higher costs. Unfortunately, the experiment also loses some of its charm since previously we bought our seeds at the local retailer, thus obtaining seeds that everybody else with a garden also uses.

The first experiment in April will be a germination experiment - will the harvested seeds from last year’s experiment germinate and thus close the circle of plant growth? Results will probably be already available by the end of April. I will keep you posted!

Story contributed by Wieger Wamelink, a Senior Ecologist at Alterra (Twitter: Wamelink_wieger).

More Information:

Drawing by Jesse van Muylwijck with what the main character of his comics, The Judge, thinks about growing plants on Mars: ‘before you can grow plants on Mars, you will have to build first: a cadastral survey office, a patent office and a courthouse. 

Photobook about the 2015 experiment, with the best pictures brought together. The present when you donate 250 euros (small version) or 1000 euros (big version).

Meanwhile in my window sill at work, the garden cress on Mars soil simulant starts to flower.

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