In conceptualizing a prototype, we considered both the individual plant life cycle and the long-term ecosystem of the Mars inflatable. Because this experiment would last at least 18-months, we wanted the plants to be generative, thriving in an ecosystem that evolves (rather than relying solely on materials sent from Earth). In order to drive towards a self-sustaining habitat, and to start experimenting with the idea of nourishment for future Mars astronauts, we looked into methods for automating plant pollination.
For our initial prototype, we focused on the pollination of tomato plants. Genetically modified tomatoes have successfully been grown in space, and they can be a source of fresh food for eventual settlements. They produce bright yellow flowers, which we can easily identify and pollinate. However, our prototype should be extrapolated to other varieties of buzz-pollinated plants.
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