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Isabella St. Onge and Carlisle Patete

Grand Prize Winner:
Pickled Cucumbers (Isabella St. Onge and Carlisle Patete)
6th Grade,
Asheville Christian Academy,
Swannanoa, NC
Teacher: Linda Mitchell

Pickled Cucumbers' Blog

Prathit Sanjay

Prathit Sanjay
3rd Grade,
Warnsdorfer Elementary School,
East Brunswick, NJ

Jayani Ratnam

Jayani Ratnam
6th Grade,
Gates Elementary School
Acton, MA

Blender Buddies
Blender Buddies (Lindsay Graham, Lily Snow)
5th Grade,
Nuckols Farm Elementary School,
Richmond, VA
Golden Power Minds

Golden Power Minds (Parker Tanner-Vigil, Alyssa Scott, Jason Paphites, Mary Kate Reid)
5th Grade,
Cape Henry Collegiate School,
Virginia Beach, VA

Jordyn Allen

Jordyn Allen
5th Grade,
Belmont Elementary School
Shawnee, KS

Ethan Yan

Ethan Yan
4th Grade,
Nueva School
Hillsborough, CA

They came up with a design that would allow the astronauts to grow vegetables and raise rabbits, which would provide them with food. During the girls' prize trips they will work with Dr. Michele Perchonok, Advanced Food Technology Manager and Vickie Kloeris, International Space Station Food Systems Manager at Johnson Space Center in Houston. While in Houston, they will wander the halls of the Natural History Museum and attend a
concert on the Discovery Green of the City. They’ll also visit Kemah Boardwalk with its amusement park and

This trip is all expenses paid including airfare and other transportation for one winner and one parent/chaperone.

The Grand Prize Winner of the Meals on Mars challenge wins this trip as well as some of the awesome prizes below!



Jakks Pacific

Edmunds Scientific

Escapade Direct

Educational Toys

Thames and Kosmos

Boreal Labs

Carolina Biological

Steve Spangler Toys

Rawhide Ranch



Science Bob




Our idea is that if you build a capsule-shaped ship, that spins, it would create gravity using centrifugal force. You could then be able to grow plants normally, without genetic engineering. You could also put animals in the ship, such as jackrabbits and worms. You would put clay and dirt, on the inside edge, then plant vegetables in the ground. There would be a donut-shaped water tank in the center, that would be long, and tall enough that the astronauts would be able to eat and sleep in it. The water would also create a shield from ultra violet storms. There would be solar panels on the outer rim of the ship, so that LED lights would be able to be powered to provide light for the plants. Since the rabbit reproduce so quickly, they would serve as food and their waste would create extremely fertilized soil. Some of the vegetables on the ship could be cucumbers, corn, and sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes are great because you can eat every part of them. The corn can be harvested normally, and would be good to feed the rabbits. The cucumbers would be a fine idea to bring along because you can eat them as a raw snack and can preserve them by turning them into pickles, using brine. These vegetables can be stored in a storage tank, in the back of the ship. It would have an extra layer of clay to protect the food from UV rays. A smaller ship would be in the storage, so that when the astronauts get to Mars, they can send it out to find a safe place to land. It would have a drill on it, so it could explore the Red Planet.

We came up with this idea when we researched centrifugal force, and what plants are best for space. Origanally we were going to design powdered beverages, but it wasn’t what we bargained for, so Isabella asked her parents if there was a way to make gravity in space. They told her about centrifugal force. She has had rabbits before and knew how good for space they would be. I love worms and researched about how they fertalize the dirt. The space ship was first designed with a drill on it, but that had more than a few problems, so we made a smaller ship to survey Mars’ terrain. We remembered that NASA is looking for a new ship idea, so we decided to make the ships capsule-shaped, instead of the retired shuttle.

 My idea is to make a Mars house so that you can grow plants on Mars. Plants need carbon dioxide, water and sunlight to grow. The atmosphere on Mars is mostly carbon dioxide. The temperature on Mars is -60 degrees F. Probes have found out there is water on Mars. The sunlight on Mars has too much UV rays. UV rays are tays that have too much energy, There is a gas called ozone, Osone blocks the UV rays. But Mars has no ozone. To make ozone you need oxygen and UV rays. There are different types of UV rays they are: UV-a UV-b and UV-c. UV-c is the most dangerous.

My idea: First, we need to find a spot where there is water under the surface. Then, we will build two glass houses one inside another. We need to seal the 2 houses. Next, we put an oxygen tank between the two houses When the UV rays from sunlight hit the oxygen it forms ozone, The ozone blocks the bad UV rays from entering the house. Then, we have to dig a hole to get the water. Next we need to build a vent to get the carbon dioxide. Now, we have all the ingredients for growing plants.

I know that we get food by growing Plants on Earth. Why can’t you grow it on Mars? I read about the climate of Mars and found 3 reasons.
1. The temperature on Mars can go up to -200 degrees F.
2. There is too much UV rays in the sun on Mars.
3. There is water deep below the surface.

I also learned from the internet that Ozone blocks the harmful UV rays from reaching Earth. So I thought of growing plants in a heated glass house and making ozone to block the harmful UV rays.

My idea is to use big tubes (like giant toothpaste tubes). These tubes will have a one way valve and an air-tight lid at the opening. We will have a mechanism that will squeze at the top and the valve and airtight lid will open and the desired amount of food will come out. Each tube will contain a different type of food such as rice, shrimp, pasta... etc. Now astronauts can choose any combination of food they want that day. The airtight lid and one way valve will keep air and germs from getting inside the tube. Since space is very cold we can use it as a natural deep space frezer to store the stock of extra tubes. Each tube can last for 1-2 months. Now they can replace it with a new tube (maybe a new or different type of the same food or a different food. Example brown rice to sticky rice, ravioli to pasta). Now the astronauts won’t get tierd of the same foods.

Another important part that the astronauts can have is a mini garden located in the designated food area. The garden could have vegetables that don’t need to be cooked such as lettuce and tomatos. The garden would have soil and wont be a hydroponic garden. Since they are in space the garden would have a dirt blocker so that the soil wont escape. The astronauts might feel a bit less homesick if they can pop a fresh tomato into their mouth or munch on a piece of lettuce.

Adding a spice rack would help astronauts add thier own or wanted amount of spice. The spice rack would have many varieties of spice so with one push of a botton they could get the amount and variety of spice that they want to have. Similar to the spice rack they could have a candy/snack rack and a cheese rack.

After a tube is used up we will use the squezing mechanism to roll it up into a tiny roll. This eliminate a big portion of the trash problem.

The tubes will be made of matereals that can last in extremly cold tempature. The mechanism that they use is a one way valve to let the food go out and no air/germs to get in. There will be a push button to open the valves.

I hope my idea will let astronauts enjoy the first space grown vegetables and a buffet every day.

“Space Buffet”
Combine and Dine in Space!

We decided to provide you with the idea of making a zero gravity blender. It will provide the hard working astronauts with a very dependable machine that will make them feel more at home, and it will provide them with the freedom to create their own, not very boring meals. At the bottom of the invention there will be 6 batteries for maximum power. On the bottom left corner there will be a “door” for the food to be scooped into. In the center of the “door” there is a port hole like circular “door” in which they will sqirt drinks into the blender from a straw attached to the container of the liquid. You may be asking, how does this machine blend with no gravity. Well, there will be razor sharp blades on all four sides, making the floating food mix well. On the top there will be two cups upside down. When the astronauts are finished blending they can turn over the machine and empty the food from the blender. To keep the food from coming into the cups during the blend there will be a removable lever to stop the liquid.

The zero gravity blender was inspired by the feeling of home. While we were brainstorming we pretended we were floating around in a spacecraft. We thought of things we would miss on earth, and thought about homemade smoothies, soups, and other treats. We wanted to provide them with something that they would have at home. When we went on the Kids Science Challenge website, we witnessed what they were consuming. We thought having the same drinks and food would get tiring and boring. NASA could provide many different varieties of fruit, drinks, soups and other materials for them to mix.

Do you like to play with your food? How about having fun “slurping and squeezing” in space? Well, Golden Power minds could make it happen, try our out of this world idea: Aqua Crunch!

Aqua crunch is a tube that is food on the outside and drink on the inside. It is an edible tube for space traveling. When you bit off the top, you can drink the inside and then when you are through, eat the package! Astronauts or people on earth can eat the entire soft flexible package. It is made out of a bio-plastic that is made out of corn starch and colored with plant-based dyes. There is no room for waste in space and we don’t need it in the landfills here at home! So why not eat it up? We read that there are food scientists working with edible papers and inks like menus that taste like peanut butter and jelly! Our design would have three different tubes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The breakfast is Mexican spicy (because taste buds don’t work so well in space) eggs, toast, with juice inside. The lunch would taste like turkey or ham and cheese with drink of water. For dinner you can have steak flavor with mixed greens and milk. This is easier then trying to hold different parts to your meal, and no crumbs to float around in the microgravity. The best part is that you can eat the container so there is no waste leftover to take up room in space. And remember it is out of this world you could do tricks, squeeze and slurp!

Our idea started when we were learning about inventors. Our original idea was to make edible toothpaste to help astronauts so that they didn’t have to spit it out into towels. We did some research on NASA’s websites and How Stuff Works and found out that people already invented that kind of thing. So we brainstormed and came up with Aqua Crunch.

How to grow plants on Mars?

This is my idea about how to grow plants on Mars. Here are the steps: First, on Earth, take a sample of a Crustose Lichen’s genes and inject it into the seeds of the vegetables that we would be taking to Mars. I chose them because they are one of the three main types of lichens living in Antarctica, and they form a crust on the surface of whatever substrate they are growing on. That would help the plant tolerate cold and drought. It would also handle the problem of stress and the water coming out of the plants because of the microgravity, since lichens have small hairs on them that can catch the water if it comes out of it. Second, take the seeds to Mars. Third, take a sample of Martian soil and add a variety of bacteria to break it down and then add compost to give it nutrients. Fourth, plant the seeds in a greenhouse with artificial sunlight. Fifth, let it grow and enjoy!

In my project, I was working on growing plants on Mars. I read an article about what happened to a plant in microgravity during my research, and I found out that the plant couldn’t survive because they were not made to live in that environment; that created stress. What happened to that plant was that it was not able to hold the water that it was storing inside it, and it was coming out of the holes that it uses to take in nutrients from the air. More problems that a plant would have faced on Mars would be cold, drought, and bad soil to plant in.

My first idea was to block half of the holes in the plant, and let the other half take in nutrients. But I realized that wouldn’t work, because the water would still come out of those holes. That wouldn’t have solve the other problems, anyway. So I continued my research.

I read many articles, with many ideas about what would help grow plants in space. I found out that scientists were planning to use greenhouses in space, with artificial sunlight that would still give the plants nutrients. I learned that scientists were thinking about using hydroponics, because the soil isn’t very good in space, and it needed to be broken down. On Earth, soil is broken down using compost, bacteria, and other organisms (such as mites, centipedes, sow bugs, snails, millipedes, springtails, spiders, slugs, beetles, ants, flies, nematodes, flatworms, rotifers, and earthworms), so I decided to use the same thing to break it down in space. I think it would be best to use a variety of bacteria to break down the soil, and then use compost to give nutrients.

I had solved the problem of the soil, but I still hadn’t solved the problem of the other bad growing conditions on Mars, mainly cold, drought, and stress from the microgravity. So I kept researching, and I found an article about taking genes from living extremophiles and inserting them into the plants that we are trying to grow on Mars. I knew that would probably work, so I started working on finding an extremophile that could survive easily in cold and drought, and would be able to handle stress. I finally found an article about lichens in Antarctica that could handle all those things. I learned that lichens are part fungus, part alga. The fungus part gives it water and nutritious salt, and the alga part produces organic substance, and that combination helps it to survive. The types of lichens I thought would be best are called Crustose Lichens.

If we can accomplish this, than humans may be able to live in space someday as well as plants. And maybe we can turn Mars into a planet as green as Earth someday, and have good soil and life everywhere.

Introduction The main challenge of this project is to design a greenhouse that can withstand the hostile conditions on Mars so humans and their plants and crops can survive inside and we can enjoy healthy meals on the red planet. My idea is very similar to that of the Biosphere 2. The greenhouse we are building is an enclosed area, with no water or air coming in from outside, like Biosphere 2. That scientific experiment has yielded a lot of important information on how to survive in such conditions. However, there are also differences between the two environments, for example, Biosphere 2 is in Arizona but my greenhouse will be on Mars. Below are the keys areas that we need to address in designing the greenhouse in the red planet. Protection from Cosmic Radiation Why do we need to stop cosmic radiations when building a greenhouse on Mars? Well, the Earth has a strong magnetic field and has a rather thick atmosphere to protect living organisms from cosmic radiations, while Mars magnetic field is as weak as a sick child and its atmosphere is as thin as a piece of paper. The trouble with cosmic radiations is that they are really harmful to living organisms. NASA has considered different ways of protecting the space shuttle from radiations in space. One method to block the harmful radiations is to use physical shielding, but it will also block useful sunlight and causes secondary radiations. Secondary radiations occur when radiations hit the shield and generate other radiations. NASA has considered another method, which is to wrap a superconductive coil around the whole protected area. The problem with this method is that the strong magnetic force generated by the coil can hurt the humans or other living organisms inside and you will be as dead as a doornail if you try this method. Our method, on the other hand, is to put small superconducting solenoids above the greenhouse in a dome shape. Unlike the NASA design, the magnetic field generated this way will be directed away from the greenhouse, and therefore it will be harmless to the humans inside. Superconductors will be incredibly cheap to operate on Mars because the planet is as cold as an ice sheet. This method does not harm humans, microbes, or plants; it will not block vital sunlight, and it will not cause secondary radiations. UV protection Strong UV light can harm living organisms, but we are lucky to have the ozone layer to protect us on Earth. On Mars, however, there is no ozone layer. So, to protect living organisms from harmful UV, windows in the Mars greenhouse need to have UV protection coating, such as those used in sunglasses we wear in sunny days on Earth. Generating electricity The method we are using is wind power. However, we are not using High Altitude Wind Energy Generation (HAWE) because the dust storms and dust devils on Mars can affect the turbines. Instead, our wind turbines will be on the ground. They will be made of a very light but structurally strong material such as graphite. There are some problems with that though. For example, the turbines need wind speeds of at least 8 kilometers per hour. So, we need a backup. That will be solar energy. The solar panels will be radiation-hardened and will use thin-film technology to minimize their weight. The reason that solar power is not our primary source of power is that sunlight is not always available and dust may cover the panels. The latter explains why NASA decided to use nuclear power for the new Curiosity rover instead of solar power as used on the older Spirit and Opportunity rovers. To prevent the solar panels from being covered by dust on Mars, they will have air holes in them to blow away the dust or sand, like an air hockey table. Air Pressure Scientists have built a greenhouse that does not let any air or moisture in or out. It is called Biosphere 2. It was a test to see if human beings and other organisms could survive on other planets or moons without biospheres. I think that we can make our greenhouse like Biosphere 2 with a few exceptions. One of the nice features of Biosphere 2 is that it handles the problem of air pressure difference well. It uses balloon-like sacks called lungs to maintain the correct air pressure constantly. This is crucial for our project because the air pressure on Mars is 0.6% times that on Earth. Such low pressure will cause problems with plants. We will keep the pressure inside our Mars greenhouse the same as that on Earth by using the same lungs idea. There are problems with Biosphere 2, too. One of them is that it is made with glass to let in sunlight. On Mars, you cannot use glass because it is heavy, may break, and cannot withstand the pressure difference between the inside and the outside of the greenhouse. Instead, we need to build our greenhouse using materials that are light-weight, flexible and transparent, for easy transportation to Mars, durability, and can let most of the sunlight through. Another problem is that we need to keep the greenhouse warm. Biosphere 2 is in Arizona, which is really hot, but Mars is much colder. The light-weight material we use to build the greenhouse may not be very good at keeping people inside warm so we will design a structure that uses greenhouse gasses to trap infrared radiation for warmth, similar to the global warming effect on Earth. The advantage of using greenhouse gases is that it will not produce excessive heat to make the greenhouse too hot for comfortable living, but it will shield the living organisms from the cold temperature on Mars. To form the greenhouse gas shielding, we will build our greenhouse with two outer layers, like double-glazing windows. Instead of having air between the two layers, we will have greenhouse gases.

How I Came Up With This Idea:

When I heard about this project, I started reading about Mars, renewable energy, Biosphere 2, and the technologies that NASA uses in its rovers going to Mars as well as other things that NASA builds. From references about Biosphere 2, I learned about sustaining an air and water tight environment. After reading books, scientific journals and websites on Mars, I learned about the hostile conditions on the red planet, including the cold temperature, the UV light, and the cosmic radiations. After that, I learned about the design criteria of different space vehicles that NASA sent, such as why the Curiosity rover uses nuclear power. I also read about renewable energy sources such as solar power and wind power. After doing all the research, I tried to come up with a solution for all the problems and also tried to identify the pros and cons about these techniques. For example, since there are dust storms on Mars, the dust will cover solar panels if we use them for electricity. So I came up with the idea that there should be holes in the solar panels to blow the dust out, like blowing air out on air hockey tables. I also thought that the balloon-like lungs in Biosphere 2 worked well, so I incorporated that into my greenhouse.