Martian Greenhouse Adventure

9:00 am MST

July 9, 2021  


Solving the Unknown

How do you grow plants on Mars?


Martian Greenhouse is an aerospace adventure born of a desire to connect students to the wonder of the aerospace industry and infinite opportunities for learning.



Students will be introduced to real engineers in order to think critically in the framework of aerospace exploration and development of skills such as problem solving, project management, public speaking, research skills, engineering tool literacy, teamwork, planning, self-sufficiency, and goal setting.



Students research the subject, meet with mentors, maintain a collaborative portfolio of findings or results, and create a final presentation. The final presentations can be a combination of the following:

What Did You Learn?

  • What problem did you solve?

  • What was your solution?

  • What mentors did you reach out to, and what did you learn from them?

  • What did you learn from collaborating with people from across the state, nation?


Proposal for Action

  • How did this inspire you?

  • What are the next steps in your process?

  • Where can you go from here?

  • How can you apply the skills you learned in this collaboration?


Reflection of the Process

  • What new skills did you learn/improve?

  • What would you do differently?

  • What recommendations do you have for other students? Teachers?

  • How did it feel to reach out to someone you didn’t know?


Learning Approach: 

Student Driven / Teacher Facilitated / Industry Inspired and Informed


An agile approach to the collaboration means that all parties take part in the design and direction of the project.  Experiential learning is a priority as students actively participate, create solutions, take initiative, and apply what they learn to the real world. Every effort to listen to the "student voice" will bd made.



Facilitating teachers and their high school students will be introduced to Lockheed Martin and AIAA mentors in an experiential learning adventure. Each team will have an aerospace mentor.

  • Schools can participate with only a few students or an entire class.  

  • Each school works with their assigned mentor to create their own collaborative schedule. (asynchronous, synchronous, and in person)

  • Our design team will support with resources for project management and facilitation strategies.


Schedule for Excellence:

  • Synchronous Meetups – Each school is expected to attend weekly status report meetings covering research, technical questions, challenges, and project management updates

  • Aerospace Forums – All participants are invited to join the Lockheed Martin Executive HS Internship Program’s weekly aerospace forums.  Many presenters are engineers for LM deep space exploration and related topics.  























AIAA (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics) and Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs approximately 110,000 people worldwide and is principally engaged in the research, design, development, manufacture, integration and sustainment of advanced technology systems,

products and services.


AIAA is the world’s largest technical society dedicated to the global aerospace profession.


Design Team:

  • Eric Wilson, Project Management Mentor (Colorado School of Mines, PhD Student, Space Resources Program)

  • Dr. William Peters – Optical Engineer at Lockheed Martin

  • Jim Christensen – former Director of Education at the Kennedy Space Center.

  • Dr. Emily Matula - Extravehicular Activity (EVA, spacewalks) Flight Controller, NASA Johnson Space Center

  • Tom Kirk - Facilitating Teacher (La Junta, CO)

  • Gregg Cannady - Project Coordinator / Communication


Educational Partner:

Anne Tweed, Director of STEM Learning Solutions, LLC in Denver


Collaborative Partners:

  • Joe Calibeo - Mentor (Systems Engineer at Lockheed Martin)

  • Craig Merrett - AIAA Advisory (Assistant Professor, Clarkson University) 

  • Sue  Janssen - Rocky Mountain AIAA STEM Committee

  • Rocky Mountain AIAA - Mentors TBA 

  • Brian Enke - Lead Science Pipeline Engineer for the New Horizons Spacecraft 

  • Dave Murrow - Deep Space Exploration Business Development, Lockheed Martin Space

  • Rhonda Ahrens, Managing Partner, Glenair Rocky Mt. Group

  • John Marcantonio, Subcontract Program Manager at Lockheed Martin

  • April Lanotte - STEM Integration Lead, (NASA)

  • Sue Linch - Mentor / Advisor (Engineering Lead, Lockheed Martin)

  • AIAA’s 30,000+ members are available to join the adventure.


QUEST Instructional Approach 


Guiding Question:

How can we grow plants on Mars?


To understand this question, it is important to find out more about greenhouse systems, 

Working together, you can use a QUEST approach that offers a hybrid project- and problem-based learning pathway to explore the issues.  Quests empower students to investigate issues relevant to them with the goal of being a problem-solver.  This Quest process includes five Stages - Question, Uncover, Explore, Solve, and Teach. The online sessions culminate with students’ designing and implementing a positive solution that makes a difference that they can share with others. 


Q - Question

All Quests start with questions, many questions, that help create the path forward. In this Quest, students will: 

  • survey what they already know about water use and availability

  • ask questions about the impact of water issues on people and the environment 


U - Uncover

Here students begin answering some of their questions about water. Focus and driving questions they will want to answer may include: 

  • What are the important water issues both short term and long term and what are the community-based problems?

  • What is the history of water availability in our community for multiple uses, and how does this history contribute to an understanding of the different perspectives? 


E - Explore 

​In this stage, students will explore the impact that the water quality, shortages and availability is having regionally and locally. They will hear from experts who can share information about the different perspectives, data being collected and the current status of water use, quality and availability.  Are the current policies sustainable, what variables impact water issues (drought, fires, fracking, etc.), moving forward?  


S - Solve

As they develop their expertise, students will apply their new understanding to reading and interpreting the maps and graphs, as well as describing and defending their personal positions on the future of water, as a natural resource, that is for everyone. 


T - Teach

Others.​ ​With new experience, knowledge, and understanding comes responsibility. How can your students share what they have learned along with their proposed solutions with others in their communities so that they can address issues and be student-leaders?  This can include podcasts, blogs, community water festivals as some options.



Now you’re Ready for the QUEST

What is the QUEST?



From your Reading and Research comes Questions.

  • Who answers the questions? (not Dr. Cannady)

  • The MENTORS answer the questions. They help you connect the dots from all your Reading and Research.

  • Ask a LOT of questions. Then discuss with other students. 

  • MENTORS can ask guiding questions to the students to flush out students Understanding of how to grow plants on Mars and all that goes with that. (Systems and Subsystems)



  • Understanding, is going to come out of the actions students take

  • This is a Student-Driven adventure. 

  • Students have to do the work. It is from students' thoughts and ideas that mentors can begin to inspire and inform student interests.



  • After you understand, you begin to form ideas about your unstoppable force on how to grow plants on Mars. 

  • That's where you're going to Explore your ideas. 

  • Explore your ideas. You and your mentors can now narrow the scope and define the deliverables that Reflect your interests and passions Related to growing plants on Mars. 



  • Once you Explore your ideas with your Mentors, you begin to Solve the problems that are important to you.

  • You solve them with a TEAM.

  • Your focus can be a Call to Action, a Process of Applied and Experiential Learning that matters to you



  • The "T" is the final stage. TEACH

  • During the final presentation you're going to Teach us all what you learned.

  • What are your ideas for things you want to do after the presentation, related to growing plants on Mars?

  • How can you inspire other students and the next generation to go on their learning adventure?

  • Tell Us: What will you do, or say, or solve that inspires other students to connect with aerospace mentors in order to discover their passions?   



  • Reply All to this email with at least three questions that arise from your Reading and Research.

  • BUG ME & the Mentors for anything you need. 

  • Let me know what I can do to serve your interests and passions.

  • DON'T  WAIT - Take initiative ASAP. If you wait for an adult to tell you what to do, you will not be on a QUEST.

  • Know that most of the work does NOT need to be a zoom meeting.  Meetings are tag ups to update others on your progress and to actively and passionately discuss what to do next.  

  • I will celebrate the day that students talk 90% of the time and adults talk 10%. 

  • Get to E as soon as you can. Then prioritize working with mentors to refine and be ready for S.

  • Mentors: Reply all with advice, suggestions, anything that brings us together.  Don't worry about formal meeting invitations.  Jump in with both feet. 




Teachers master the difference between teaching and facilitating


Facilitators support group learning and team building. They can determine what the group knows so the group can build on that knowledge. A facilitator helps the group establish a set of ground rules, as well as its own learning objectives. We have implemented strategies that show the difference between a teacher and a facilitator.



When a teacher walks into a classroom, they take charge of the learning environment. Clear and concise objectives delineate what the student learns on any given day. The teacher is responsible for measuring how much information the student learns. Evaluation is often in the form of tests, but the teacher may use other measurement tools to determine if the student met the teacher’s learning objectives. (Does this sound familiar?)



Facilitators may or may not be subject area experts. They do have the ability to support group learning and team building. In any group setting, a facilitator can quickly determine what the group knows so the group can proceed to build on that knowledge and questions. By asking questions (open-ended and probing questions) and keeping the group focused, a facilitator helps the group establish a set of ground rules, as well as its own learning objectives.


The facilitator also helps the group determine and summarize what group members learned from their research and activities. (How is this different and how does a facilitator do it?) Remember that the Martian Greenhouse project is student-directed and teacher/mentor facilitated so we need to be mindful of how to support the students! 


Solving the unknown vs the known creates an environment where all parties build relationships by taking risks, failing, redesigning, and discovering how teams work to solve real problems. Students, teachers, and mentors are having to think in real time.

An agile approach means that all parties take part in the design of the project.  Experiential learning is a priority as students actively participate, create solutions, take initiative, and apply what they learn to the real world.


Benefits Provided by Facilitation

Facilitation offers everyone in the group the chance to express their ideas and to feel as if they are part of a team. Since the group arrives at a mutual conclusion, it’s easier for individual members to carry out the group’s goals and to feel less inclined to work on individual agendas. A facilitator helps individuals build on their skills and learn new ones. Facilitation serves as a positive way to clarify misunderstandings among a diverse group of individuals.


Active Listeners

Teachers often act as facilitators, and facilitators sometimes teach. In order for either to be successful, they must be an active listener. Facilitators in particular make use of this skill. They listen to an entire statement made by a group member before responding. They try to understand the group member’s point of view in a nonjudgmental way. Active listeners often ask questions of the group to clarify what group members are saying. Active listeners are slow to jump to conclusions and keep the group focused on the subject of discussion.


Tools of a Facilitator

  1. Invite everyone to share their ideas and their thinking to support the ideas

  2. Provide wait time for group members to think about their ideas

  3. Respond to the group to keep the discussion focused on the goals

  4. Provide feedback to keep the learning moving forward

  5. Ask open (probing) questions that have multiple possible solutions

  6. Suggest a resource or a mentor that could help

  7. Suggest a thinking skill they could use

                                                i.          Let’s compare these two ideas…

                                                ii.         What do you predict will happen…

                                                iii.        Let’s analyze this problem.

                                                iv.        What evidence do we have…

                                                v.         What do you speculate might happen if…

                                                vi.        What conclusions might you draw…

                                                vii.       In what situation might you apply this solution

                                                viii.      As you evaluate these alternatives…


Thinking Skills Applied to Solving a Problem

A.   Generate possible solutions

B.   Evaluate possible options

C.   Predict consequences

D.   Apply best possible solution


Applied and experiential learning allows students to connect the dots between their current knowledge and interests. Energized adults give hope to students who are searching for more than just a job. 


Example: Lockheed Martin Intern Group with their Mentor: Student Driven

March 25, Group Three - Beginning Sketches and V Diagram  (play @ 33:00)

The left side of the "V" represents the decomposition of requirements, and creation of system specifications. The right side of the "V" represents integration of parts and their validation.


Project Management

(Eric Wilson)



Project Charter

This is the first place to start with the team.  My suggestion would be at a minimum getting the team to use the Scope and Deliverables sections.  In essence describe what aspects of the Purpose (which is Grow Plants on Mars as a general statement) this project will address. Deliverables are just a list of those things you expect to create – SolidWorks models, diagrams, lists, timelines, cost models… this can be anything. Make sure team knows if it’s in the Deliverables list, you expect to see a work product and you expect it to be in the final presentation.


























































Track the tasks, who is doing what, and when things need to get done. The general concept is to break down the systems and subsystems however you like so people can be assigned their to-do’s.  This helps everyone keep clear on who is working on what bits as well as providing an easy way to give your group mentor a status update. 


First major comment for all this.  Nothing in any of these examples is a required element of the students’ project.  These aren’t worksheets to fill out – just examples of how project information can be discussed, structured, tracked and managed.  What works for Team A won’t always work for Team B so best practices are not only practices.  The important part is the project cycle. 








Acton Plan

With the Charter figured out, next step is making a plan.  There are two major aspects to this – 1) brainstorm the tasks and 2) assign an expectation of timing. 


Each week the team should pull up the Action Plan, review what got done, what’s left to do, add/edit/delete tasks as they get smarter in the project.  To paraphrase Dwight Eisenhower – “Plans are worthless but planning is invaluable.”  So what’s on the page isn’t nearly as important as their process of review/tweak/re-plan.



The acronym stands for Requirements Traceability and Verification Matrix.  Fancy way to say “write down what you expect your system to do then check to make sure your design does that”.  Developing requirements is a Big Deal™ in the aerospace world. 


The iterative cycle is part of how aerospace projects work in the “real world” but just like the real world, the team has to decide when enough is enough and it’s time to just buckle down and get the deliverables done.  It’s all just a series of small, manageable things that add up to an impressive effort. 


Four Types of Meetings

  1. Brainstorming (we don't know what we're doing yet for an issue, question, concern, problem... need to kick around thoughts)

  2. Deciding (ok... enough brainstorming... time to pick a direction and get going)

  3. Planning (now that we have a direction, what do we need to get done?)

  4. Status-ing (here's where things stand on the tasks we outlined)


The key point here is getting the team to create their plan.


Work Breakdown Structure

Just like a design team at NASA is broken up into multiple disciplines - rover chassis, drive train, terrain sensing, driving software, instrument packages - but it's all one mission called Perseverance.  In aerospace engineering this is called a system of systems where each sub-system contributes to the greater whole. 


Another aspect of project management is keeping the team motivated. Look for small wins along the way.  Things like a completed project plan, finishing a design, solving a vexing question... these are all great things to celebrate as well with small rewards. 


Project Timeline



Systems Thinking

(Joe Calibeo, Lockheed Martin)

Systems Engineering Requirements of a Human Seating Apparatus


  1. System Requirements

    1. The device shall accommodate people in the seated position.

      1. The device shall accommodate a minimum of 2 people.

      2. The device shall accommodate people up to a maximum weight of 200 lbs.

      3. The device will accommodate people up to 6’ in height.

      4. Each user shall have their own seat.

      5. While in the seated position, the user's feet shall not touch the ground.

    2. The device shall be located outside.

      1. The device shall be capable of being installed in a sandpit, dirt surface or concrete sheet.

      2. The device shall be installed on an approximately level surface

      3. The device shall be weather resistant

        1. The device shall not corrode.

        2. The device shall withstand wind gusts of 40 miles an hour

        3. The device shall have a minimum operational life of 10 year.

        4. The device shall be durable enough to withstand 16 hours of sunlight a day for 20 years

        5.  The device shall withstand temperatures of -20° F indefinitely

        6. The device shall withstand temperatures of 120° F indefinitely   

    3. The user shall be able rotate on a single axis parallel to the surface of the Earth.

      1. The user shall be able to rotate without obstruction of the device.

      2. The device shall be at 0 degs rotation while not in operation.

      3. The device shall not +/- 90 degs rotation during operation.

      4. The device shall be able to operate 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

    4. The device structure shall be stationary during operation.

    5. The device shall be transportable to various locations using TBD methods

    6. The device shall be assembled in 1 day

      1. The device shall be assembled with a minimum of two people

      2. The assembly of the device shall not require special skills

    7. The device shall be installed in 3 days

      1. The device shall be installed with a minimum of two people

      2. The installation of the device shall not require special skills

    8. The device shall have a cost NTE $300.00 USD


















Reflection on the Approach

Jim Christensen Former Director of Education at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex


In a recent meeting hosted by Pathlight International, Dr. Louis Zabaneh outlined a plan to reduce a content-driven educational system in Belize.,%20Culture,%20Science%20&%20Technology


STEM careers are rapidly changing what our students need to know.  We must shift from traditional content and curriculum-based instruction to engaging all students in the knowledge, understanding, and skills that translate to their future careers and lives. The exponential growth of industry is increasing the GAP between what we are teaching and what our world needs.


We need a new order of things whereby students are directly engaged in emerging technologies, project management, systems thinking, communication, collaboration, and how to work with access to infinite content. 


My iPhone can provide infinite content. The urgent need is to help students learn what to do with infinite content, to connect them to applied learning, and to strengthen communities.


Teachers cannot know every subject, every emerging technology, and the 21st-Century skills needed to thrive. We must connect our students to the best minds in every industry. These relationships can be embedded in every class to provide a new vision for learning. 


With synchronous and local community connections to global experts, our students can envision greater possibilities. Our students will know why math matters, why communication matters, why teamwork matters, why science matters, etc.  Perseverance, self-advocacy, determination, and solving the unknown in high-risk environments can become less scary with the support of caring adults. 


Industry and community partners want to share what they do. We want our industry partners to inspire and inform what students need to know to thrive in future careers and life. This is a win-win for students and industries. Through simple collaborations and “ships,” we give hope to all. There are many benefits of experiential learning for teachers and students working with mentors.


Culture of Building Ships


If this approach can migrate to classroom cultures in multiple schools and communities, we hope that hundreds if not thousands of students can be served. The ultimate example of success will be when schools, industries, and communities inform an ever-evolving approach whereby a new culture of learning and even a movement inspires each community to create their own version of Building Ships. 


Hallmark Characteristics of Building Ships Business Partnerships 

  • Clear value for both business and K-12 partners

  • Co-created project design

  • Shared learning and accountability


Hallmark Characteristics of Building Ships Student Projects 

  • Authentic inquiry

  • Authentic roles for learners and mentors

  • Attention to relationships, friendships

  • Practicing collaboration 

  • User centered design

  • Innovation dispositions


All parties take an active role to clarify the goals, roles and responsibilities and time-frame for the collaboration.


Students - When students are not told what to do, they have to think in order to solve the unknown.  They also become another Building Ships advisory group that helps us discover their motivation and what fits best with their experience, knowledge and interests. 


Building Ships Coordinator - This is the missing link. Many schools may have guidance, college, or even a career counselor. Few have someone dedicated to building industry/business partnerships. 


Facilitating Teachers - Facilitation is a new skill that requires training and communication.  This role is essential if we are to connect the relationships to the work done in classrooms. 


Industry Mentors (subject matter experts) - We are currently documenting best practices for the role of mentors. Internships can be more than job shadowing when effective mentorship strategies are employed. Our goal is to respect the time of the mentor and preserve the autonomy of the working professional. 


School System Leaders - The supportive role school system leaders play requires an understanding of the process in order to remove obstacles and design  structures that allow for an agile approach which protects and supports all parties. 


The logical order of this approach can be implemented in any community.


Begin with Relationships

  • Open discussions about areas of interest

  • Look for areas of mutual benefit

  • Learn about HOW each party usually partners

  • Learn about HOW each party generally does work


Design the Endeavor: Internships and Mentorships

  • What are the goals of the endeavor?

  • What timeline will work?

  • Who is available to play essential roles?

  • What does each partner identify as key measures of success?


Implement Project: Build  Friendships, skills and network

  • Execute the plans

  • Let creativity from the students and industry mentors drive the direction

  • Pay close attention to the innovation sector’s way of learning and professional dispositions


Reflect on Outcomes & Deepen Partnership

  • Gather input from industry mentors and students about the project goals and alignment with innovation sector

  • Package findings into insights related to goals and lessons for future endeavors

  • Share findings in all partner organizations


Just as we know our students learn by doing, others will learn by doing it as well.  Our work is open source and others are encouraged to enter at any level.


We have already seen the value proposition of our approach.  


  • Students are able to apply what they learn to their interests and their future careers. 

  • Employers are able to speak into what students will need to succeed in their industry.

  • Communities are strengthened because students are learning about their communities and what knowledge and skills will be needed to improve their community. 

  • The world benefits because students are able to connect the dots between what Colorado is doing and how it impacts more than just our state. 

  • What happens in K-12 schools will better predict the next steps in education and career preparation. 

  • Teachers will learn to facilitate learning with subject matter experts, thereby greatly expanding the scope of possibilities.

  • We all will learn to work together, to be hopeful, and to value the adventure and journey from K-12 to career.

  • I believe our students can also be much more influential in solving problems. No need to wait until schooling is over to make a difference. This can happen now. 

  • Imagine the economic benefit of a highly skilled workforce and communities that understand and support relationships so urgently needed to get there.

  • Our state and country can become world leaders, inventors, innovators, and global citizens. We can be the ultimate example of applied learning leading to great careers that help all people thrive.  


Our approach can be measured in miracles.


  • The miracle of a teacher who sees the value of their subject beyond a gradebook or class

  • The miracle of kids being excited to learn, gaining confidence in themselves and their ideas, and learning to value the relationships so generously offered to them

  • The miracle of industry involvement in gilding necessary knowledge, skills, and leadership

  • The miracle of a student learning CAD to solve an engineering problem

  • The miracle of a student finding their career path


Schools can implement new visions that utilize systems thinking, project management, and networks that inspire and inform a greater vision. We know from experiential learning theories that students learn more, retain learning, and know how to apply learning when we work together and rise above just content and curriculum.   



Project Extension:  Try it! Tell the story!

NGSS Storylines LINK

Teacher Professional Learning Approach for Belize Summer 2021 LINK

STEM Magazine Story LINK

AIAA ASCEND 2021 Proposal (Nov. 15 -17, 2021)



Martian Resources


Mars Facts


3D Printed 'Artificial Leaves' Could Provide Sustainable Energy on Mars


The Cultured Meat Revolution: Singapore and Israel One Step Closer to Commercializing Lab Grown Chicken


Astronauts Enjoyed a Fresh Supply of Leafy Greens Grown on the International Space Station


Bringing Space Home: The Role of Sample Return in Space Exploration: 


This algae bioreactor can remove as much carbon dioxide as an acre of trees


Algae Caviar, Anyone? What We'll Eat on the Journey to Mars


With Bugs and Algae, One Million People Could Live in Mars Colonies


Nasa's rover makes breathable oxygen on Mars:


Clever space algae could be the key to getting humans to Mars 


NASA is learning the best way to grow food in space


Terrestrial, Atmospheric, and Space Science


3D Printed Artificial Leaves Could Generate Oxygen on Mars


Automatic Gardening


Greenhouses for Mars


Roane Lab: Applied Microbial Ecology 


Microorganisms in parched regions extract needed water from colonized rocks


Getting Water From a Stone: How Life Survives in Extreme Environments


Mars: Vast amount of water may be locked up on planet


Sneaky New Bacteria on the ISS Could Build a Future on Mars


Nasa's rover makes breathable oxygen on Mars 


Inspirational story about a 12-year old aerospace girl /


Decades of Mars research by CU faculty and students lays the groundwork for human astronauts|LASP|CU-Boulder

AIAA Classroom Grant Program

Google Workspace

Mars Science City project in Dubai

Decades of Mars research by CU faculty and students lays the groundwork for human astronauts

Answers to Student Questions


1) I suspect that you want to make some sort of budget. A certain size tank (start with a guess! 1000 liters, maybe? I like to use round numbers for a first guess) will hold a certain amount of algae, which will require a certain amount of sunlight for photosynthesis, a certain amount of food/fertilizer to supply nutrients, and a certain amount of air - they probably need CO2 for photosynthesis and O2 for respiration. Google tells me there's a day/night cycle here, where they produce more O2 than they use during the day but the reverse at night - they consume more than they produce at night. That means you can influence the balance at least a little bit using lighting in the greenhouse. You can also control their oxygen consumption by restricting how much of the nutrient supply you feed them.           Remember the basics of biology: light and CO2 is used to make sugar and oxygen. Sugar and oxygen and nutrients are used for everything else that biology does, with CO2 as a byproduct. You just need some numbers for how much and you can make a budget.


2) yes, you can 3D print things like that. How much interest in your group is there on 3D printing? It could make for a very interesting aspect of this project, but you guys could also steer clear of it, depending on student interest.


3) If we stick to basics - farming is easier in rich soil than in sand/clay/rock. This is mostly because rich soil already has lots of carbon in the form of humic acid, and also because it has lots of all the other nutrients. Martian dirt will have almost zero carbon. However, people do farm in poor soil by applying lots of fertilizer and sunlight. So, it can be done. The key point is that anything you can do to amend the soil and make it better will make growing food easier. After that you have to deal with toxicity. The perchlorates are a problem, and I wonder if the iron is a problem as well. I wonder if algae or other microorganisms might help detoxify the soil:


4) From an engineering point of view, it would be easier to use the materials you're already familiar with, but account for their oxygen consumption than it would be to replace the materials with something else. Basically, if I can estimate how much oxygen per day might be absorbed by a plastic window or an aluminum frame, I can add that to my budget, and account for it by increasing how much oxygen I want to produce each day, or subtract from how much oxygen I allow something else to use each day. The key here is that materials will not absorb much - enough that maybe you need to account for it, but not enough that you need to drastically change your engineering plans. I will note that 3D printing might be an exception - I haven't looked into it, but perhaps "freshly" printed things might absorb more oxygen than usual.


It might also be worth mentioning that we usually worry about the opposite thing on spacecraft - we care a lot about what gasses are being given off by materials. . I haven't put much thought into how this might affect a greenhouse, however. We usually care about this because spacecraft are in vacuum and have cold parts, so perhaps this would matter more for the exterior of the greenhouse, and it won't affect the inside much?



5) Personally, my main concern with glass would be weight - we have to bring it from Earth, and it's really heavy. And we're already bringing other building materials, and seeds, and fertilizer and enough water to get started and maybe soil and ... what else? And how much of all of those? However, glass has fantastic mechanical properties - very strong, very resistant to a lot of different environments. I just googled and found out that the space shuttle windows and the space station windows were made of glass. Space shuttle re-entry is a very difficult environment - if that glass makes it through re-entry, it's gotta be really tough. I'll let you google to see if Space X and those guys use glass windows on crew dragon. I have no idea.


6) Good point about strength. I just googled and found out that bulletproof glass is made of various plastics, though, so it's certainly possible to find something strong enough. Here's how an engineer might think about the problem: Mars has a very thin atmosphere, so your windows will have basically 1 atmosphere (~15 psi) of pressure pushing them outward. If your window material is not very strong, you can compensate by making them smaller, but then you've got more framing material, which is also heavy. So, for different candidate window materials, I'd figure out how big I could make a window, then how much framing I'd need, then add up the weight. Rough numbers are fine. There are various kinds of plastic and various kinds of glass, too, with different levels of strength and transparency. Which one of the usual candidates gives us the lightest structure? I'd figure out who the usual candidates are by googling around.


7) There are various crystals, I suppose, that you could use. I have used sapphire windows in the past. I have also used things like magnesium fluoride or calcium fluoride as windows. As a knee-jerk reaction, I wouldn't think any of those are good candidates for you, but it is always worth running some numbers to see what you come up with. Probably too expensive and too heavy for a whole greenhouse, but it's worth googling around to find out. Pro tip: optical sapphire is colorless, like glass; it's the impurities that make it into pretty colors.


A side note here - feel free to leave this outside the scope of your  project, but if anyone finds it interesting: Brian Enke responded to the "R-Quest" email chain with a discussion of radiation. There's a lot of material there, and it would be a tall task to learn all the things needed on this topic. But I bring it up because glass and plastic respond in very different ways to radiation, and I wouldn't be too surprised if, in real life, this winds up being the main factor when NASA gets around to designing habitats on Mars. Brian Enke and Emily Matula both know more about this than I do, but I would guess that plastic windows would lose transparency and strength quickly on the surface of Mars, and would need to be replaced frequently. Glass would last longer and need less maintenance. It becomes engineering when you ask: would it last long enough to justify the increased weight?


So a few things that might help guide your designs and answer questions


-Do plants need soil to grow? What does soil provide plants, and could you provide those things any other way? Hint: I think Dr. Peters brought up a good point about nutrients, plants seem to be happy growing anywhere just as long as they are getting the nutrients they need.


-Plants/algae typically don't have excessive respiration (producing CO2) while they are illuminated. I think for energy savings, you're going to want to take advantage of Martian irradiance during the day but maybe turn on some LEDs/lights at night to keep the plants from switching from O2 production to CO2 production and O2 consumption. How does that play into your energy budget?


-If you wanted to protect your astronauts from radiation in adobes using Martian regolith (a very accessible building material), how could you get irradiance from the sun into the structure? Hint: take a look at fiber optics as solar carriers. 


-As for growing meat, I think that's a pretty futuristic idea and I like it. I would say look at the resources required (energy and equipment needed) to produce lab-grown meat. I've also seen meat-alternatives grown out of mushrooms/fungi, one advantage there is that fungi tend to grow VERY fast, so it could be pretty easy to have a daily offering of fresh "meat" for the crew. 


Just wanted to briefly comment on some of the student questions in the discussion above... and as usual, the questions are more interesting than the (lack of) answers. :)


  • Would it be possible to set up a regenerating water source (like how Earth has the water cycle) but on a smaller scale?

  • What would be a better way to make sure that the plants don't just get burnt to a crisp by the sun while still getting them the light they need?

  • Could we use algae for energy as well as the oxygen that it will produce? (There was some research a few years ago that it's possible to use algae for energy. I can't find it at the moment but it was extremely cool on how they figured out that algae was able to somewhat replace gas in cars. I'll try to find it before the meeting)


Water cycles are tricky things, fraught with details... but the idea of micro-environments is one that could literally revolutionize life here on Earth. Some might view these details as 'obstacles,' but we should encourage the students to consider them as 'major opportunities.' The smallest improvement could save or enhance millions of lives.


The question of making sure plants don't get 'burnt to a crisp' is actually far more complex than it might seem at first. I've seen some techie 'solutions' for protecting plants over the years, like removable shades for the greenhouses... but any solution depends upon our understanding the real problems a LOT better. And here, a major issue is RADIATION (yikes). Fewer topics are harder to comprehend than radiation, so you've been warned!


But for any super-brave students who want to know more about (Mars) radiation, here are some science questions that explore various assumptions (by no means a complete list):


   - What are the two main types of (surface) radiation on Mars?

   - In general, how does radiation affect crop health, yields, and mutations? Or people?

   - What are the normal, daily/nightly levels of radiation we can expect on Mars? Should it vary from place to place? Why? (or why not?)

   - Do we have any real data, or are we just guessing?

   - Are the expected daily radiation levels harmful to crops?

   - How about worst-case levels? And what would cause these worst-case scenarios?

   - How could a Mars settlement prepare for radiation issues? Or for the loss of a crop?

   - If we prepare well enough, does the total loss of a crop even matter?


Here's a starting point for the 'do we have any real data' question:


Note that the RAD instrument is one of ours (SwRI). I actually helped with RAD at several stages over the years, from idea formation through data analysis and outreach. Here's a bit of useless trivia - our initial ideas for RAD came out of the Columbia shuttle disaster hearings.


Algae: yeah! Lots of idea potential here, as others have commented so well. :)


Water: Accessing polar ice is tough. I wouldn't say impossible... but really really really tough (likewise on the Moon). I think I hinted earlier at some possible sources for water closer to the equator of Mars... so we can encourage a lot of speculation about that (plus some research into water that NASA has already 'discovered'). My favorite future water source is Epsom Salts. Students can do many hands-on experiments, since you can buy a bag of Epsom Salts at your local Walgreens for a dollar and turn them loose. Just make sure they don't blow anything up. ;)


Another important assumption for both water and radiation (and much more) is LOCATION. My suggestion here is to not get too carried away, though. NASA and others already facilitate dozens of independent teams looking at potential landing sites on Mars. In a nutshell, resources and conditions vary so much in certain places that we can (and should) lean toward 'best case' assumptions. For example, if your greenhouse will need X liters of water per day from outside sources, assume you'll have it - and more.


Hi everyone -


Just wanted to share a few quick thoughts about things that the

students mentioned in today's on-line meeting. This will be quick, but

we can start a longer discussion on these or other things if there's



Piper mentioned researching Biosphere II... excellent!! Yes, great

approach - many Biosphere-II lessons can be learned, both good and

bad. Keep the Thomas Edison quote in mind: "I haven't failed. I've

just found 10,000 ways that won't work." More to the point, Biosphere

II was built upon a set of assumptions, some of which are more 'Moon'

relevant (i.e. harder) than 'Mars'. Perhaps encourage the students to

look for ways future Martians can 'cheat'... like supplementing the

internal Biosphere-II air supply with Mars atmosphere gasses, better

use of local water, mega-energy from portable nuclear reactors, etc

etc etc. A single good 'cheat idea' could become a real game-changer.


Rose @ UA Global mentioned several interesting ideas. 'Growing soil' -

nice - I may want to borrow that term because it's so true. Regarding

water, definitely encourage any students interested in 'water topics'

to research "poly-hydrated sulfates" like Epsomite (Epsom Salts) or

Meridianiite. Our understanding of local Martian water sources has

exploded in recent years. Mars is a water-world... it's all a question

of finding, filtering, and using the right water sources smartly.

Water-rich sulfates are one of those real game-changers from 10 years

ago that few people grasp the significance of. (for example,

overlaying a map of known sulfate deposits with prime landing sites

can be a major eye-opener)




    - Brian Enke


How about 3D Printing Water?


Since Martian Greenhouse is a student-directed and teacher/mentor-facilitated project, try to use student technical questions as opportunities to lead the discussion without jumping into solutions... especially during the early brainstorming stages.


This is generally true for many Martian topics: the questions are often more interesting than the answers, if indeed any answers are 'known'. So in that spirit, I thought I'd first try to get a better feeling for what sorts of questions interest the students most. Once we know their greatest needs, I can help to steer you toward information accordingly.


Keep in mind that thousands of researchers have been studying various aspects and issues of (Earth) crop growth literally for millennia. Martian Greenhouse is a HUGE topic, one that spans many disciplines. A complete set of research links would include thousands of sources. Where do we begin?


Some of the highest-level decisions and context have already been established within the start-up materials. These 'boundaries' can help to focus the effort. But casting a wider net, I quickly threw together this quick list of high-level topics that might be of interest to students as they start to generate those thoughts & ideas:


General Mars planetary info

Mission timeline and goals

Number of people

Sedentary or active lifestyle?

Energy sources

Mediums (soil, water, nutrients)

Ingassing, outgassing

Stored energy and food (fault tolerance)

Materials production


Types of food, nutrients, kilocalories


Other crop uses (medicines? herbs? clothing?)

Water filtration, circulation

Earthworms (Marsworms)?

Spacesuit style (minor, affects kcal’s/day)

Earth spinoffs!!!


As mentioned earlier, the list of potential resources is vast. Whenever I give Mars presentations to student or industry groups, I like to emphasize that nearly every aspect of 'Earth life' will feed into some sort of Martian equivalent someday (except deep sea fishing... maybe). General internet searches can therefore be surprisingly helpful. Look for the equivalent 'Earth' topic, research it, and then apply it to Mars.


Other sources of useful information (by no means a complete list):



Biosphere II

Private studies (Mars Society, 4Frontiers)

University studies

Mars soil simulants

Earth analogs

Traditional farming



Mini aquaponics

Soil reclamation


Over the past twenty years, I've facilitated, assisted, or 'spied upon' dozens (!) of focused Mars research efforts for groups like SwRI, NASA, 4Frontiers, the Mars Society, Mars Consortium, the Mars Homestead Project, MarsOne, etc, etc, the list goes on & on. The greatest common factor in the studies is an urgent need to nail down the assumptions. Many different Mars missions/goals/capabilities are possible, and the differences tend to really, really matter. As I look at Martian Greenhouse, these are some of the basic assumptions that pop into mind (but please don't treat ANY of these as gospel... again, definitive answers are rare and student questions are far more interesting):


Equatorial settlement location

Small early crew (<12?)

Infinite water

At least one crew member will be ‘in charge’ of ‘growing stuff’

Everyone will want to touch or see the plants

99% of Mars food <—> Earth food

Focus on details like nutritional balance

Average kcal’s here (add 25% if active crew):

Hydroponics for small scale, soil for larger?

Mix of buried and surface crop habitats?

Contaminants are more a resource than a burden?


And on and on we go, depending upon student interest! Again, feel free to contact me about any of the items above, especially if my short-hand notes above are too cryptic.


Onward and upward!


   - Brian Enke

     Senior Space Research Analyst, SwRI


Martian Mentors


If you decide to be a mentor, we would love a photo and short bio. Many of the mentors like creating google slides as a fun way to share their experience and personal passions.



As an aerospace subject matter expert, your definition of mentorship is more important than any advice I could give.  However, below are some suggestions based upon recent collaborations and discoveries. Basically, we will do the work and the “teacher stuff.” Your role will be advisory.


The facilitating teachers will coordinate communication, protect student data and personal information, and work with students to complete the project.


Martian Greenhouse Mentors will meet weekly with a participating school that will be assigned to them. Our participating schools represent rural, urban, and even international students.  You may mentor  both synchronously via conference calls or asynchronously via emails or shared docs with the facilitating teacher.


Required Attendance for Mentors:

Weekly Check In (determined by your group)3:00 pm

Final Presentation on May 4. (as seen in the project description) 


Together with the mentor, the students research to topic and create their own final project. In the short timeframe of this collaboration, success will be measured in subjective and objective ways.


The work you do with the students leads to a deeper understanding of the topic, project management, 21st-century skills, and the chance to discover their passion for airspace.


The mentor can advise their group in a number of ways including:


• Guiding research to help them find the most appropriate resources

• Leverage a network of professionals to inform the topic

• Offer suggestions to make sure the topic is real and connected to future careers


We had great success piloting this virtual approach to internships in the fall of 2020 with

Lockheed Martin.


The magic of this with the Lockheed Martin Internships was that each mentor had

a different approach, necessary to empower student ideas in ways that would not be possible in a

school setting. Students are hungry for any window into aerospace beyond what schools can



Below is what the coordinator of Lockheed Martin mentors had to say about the role of a mentor.

From: Emily Nielson


If I were to have any advice, it would mostly be that these students already know what they are passionate about, so let them pursue it. It is your job as a mentor to guide them along the path that is your career and help them narrow their goals for their project, but a big part of your job as a mentor is to let them be creative in their own space to pursue something cool and creative in your industry.


For our LM groups, each group comes up with a project that they research and work on all semester and then they present to a board of subject matter experts at the end of their internship. Their mentor helped guide them along this process by helping them make specific deliverables that they could work to and making sure they had the proper contacts to talk to in order to aid in their research.


The executive internship program has some deliverables that the students must meet to fill their criteria, but sometimes our mentors break those up into sub-deliverables in order to help the students get things done and get into the scientific method mindset.


The learning QUEST faced by "Martian Greenhouse" is also a quest to understand the power of mentorship.



The photo above shows Gitanjali. TIME “Kid of the Year


Gitanjali's (TIME’s Kid of the Year) comments about the Lockheed Martin internship:


Going into this internship, I personally didn't know what to expect. Being almost halfway through it, I've learned so much more than I would have ever expected. And beyond that, I've made lifelong friends that I know I will continue to collaborate with in the future. This internship has opened up opportunities for friends, content, knowledge, and jobs like nothing I've ever seen before.


While caring teachers had something to do with the success of this, it was the elimination of educational obstacles and being open to non-educational strategies that allowed for discovery and achievements that far exceeded anyone's expectations. 


It was messy, chaotic, and confusing at the beginning. For Lockheed Martin, that is what every project looks like in the beginning. From chaos Lockheed Martin engineers design a goal, establish the team roles to accomplish it, and identify the measures of success. Risk is expected and failure is certain. However, solving the unknown, learning from failure, and perseverance allows them to make the impossible possible.





During the Spring 2021 Lockheed Martin Internships and we doubled the number of mentors.


We let mentors take an active role in student discovery and yes, even the messy parts 


It's okay! Mentors understand chaos, failure, and perseverance. 


We value adventure, risk, and failure as much as the content. Teachers prioritized a quest in real-world learning by letting students and mentors drive every phase of the experience. 

Facilitating teachers also become the students as we learn how to empower student-driven learning. 


An agile approach to the collaboration means that all parties take part in the design and direction of the project.  Experiential learning will be a priority as students actively participate, create solutions, take initiative, and apply what they learn to the real world. Every effort to listen to the "student voice" will be made.

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Recent Developments

  • Martian Greenhouse has been accepted as an ASCEND 2021 virtual session. CLB.STEAM-04: Martian Greenhouse Collaboration, VCS-01, 11:45am - 12:45pm, Tue, Nov 09  (Pacific)


Planning for the Future

Eric Wilson, Dr. Bill Peters, myself and a few STEM students went to Tom Kirk's rural school in La Junta, CO.













After cleaning out an old greenhouse in 100-degree weather, we had a meeting to design the first steps of Martian Greenhouse 2.0.


​Attending the meeting virtually was Jim Christensen and Dr. Emily Matula. 


Jim suggested we begin with a RFP - Request for Proposal. Dr. Matula proposed multiple RFPs created by the participating group. 


Dr. Peters wanted to make sure students were not asked to complete a prescribed project.  He noted that Joe Calibeo's introduction to the previous Martian Greenhouse had an RFP. However, student groups still went their own direction. The freedom to follow student interests and passions is important to learning that is: Student Driven / Teacher Facilitated / Industry Inspired and Informed


Jim also brought up the freedom groups could have to decide how they present. (model, movie, podcast, paper, etc.) He emphasised the value of a backstory to set up the RFPs. ​

BTW - I love what Jim had to say about our last adventure. 


My Proposal

  1. Five-week adventure Beginning Oct. 5, 2021

  2. Weekly check ins @ 4:00 pm MST every Tuesday (Oct. 5, 12, 19, 26, Nov. 2)

  3. Student groups will be invited to present at  ASCEND 2021 (Nov. 9, 12:45am - 1:45pm, Tue, Nov 09  MST

  4. OPTIONAL - Lockheed Martin Weekly Forums 3:00 pm MST every Tuesday 

  5. RFPs created by each team with the help of mentors



  • June  - Design Project and Create Description  

  • July  - Invite Schools   

  • July 12 - Announcement at Aerospace Alley meeting. (2:00 pm MST)

  • July  - Recruit AIAA Mentors

  • August - Schools apply for $500.00 AIAA Funding 

  • September - Facilitation Meeting/s for participating teachers to help teachers prepare and review resources

  • September - Mentor meeting to define the role of mentors and discuss RFPs

  • October - Collaboration Begins 

  • Nov. 9 - Present at AIAA ASCEND 2021


Design Team

  • Eric Wilson - · Eric Wilson, Project Management Mentor (Colorado School of Mines, PhD Student, Space Resources Program)

  • Jim Christensen - Executive Director of ShareSpace Education, the education arm of the Aldrin Family Foundation

  • Dr. Emily Matula - Extravehicular Activity (EVA, spacewalks) Flight Controller, NASA Johnson Space Center

  • Dr. Bill Peters - Optical Engineer at Lockheed Martin

  • Sue Janssen -AIAA RMS STEM Committee

  • Tom Kirk - Facilitating Teacher

  • Gregg Cannady - · Project Coordinator / Communication


Educational Consultant: Anne Tweed - Director of STEM Learning Solutions, LLC in Denver