London: A team of young researchers will send seeds to Mars in 2018 to grow the first plant on the Red planet.
The Seed team has won a contest on the best designs for experiments on Mars organised by Dutch non-profit Mars One.
"We are excited to announce the winner of the Mars One University Competition: Seed. The winning payload will fly to the surface of Mars on Mars One's 2018 unmanned lander mission," the company said.
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.
"Seed itself is uniquely inspiring since this would be the first time a plant will be grown on Mars," said Arno Wielders, co-founder and Chief Technical Officer of Mars One.
Mars One said the 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 Araujo, 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.
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 said.
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.