Greek spinach pie from spinach grown on Mars? Talk about local flavor.

At Space Apps Athens, it wasn’t such a far-off idea. Themis Karafasoulis of Hackerspace of Athens says, “When we found out that NASA thinks open, we were sure that we wanted to enter this project.”

Nine hackers, including electrical engineers and an aeroponics expert, came together to develop a solution to the Deployable Greenhouse challenge.

A group formed around a fascination with the new frontier of human colonization on Mars. Many of them had never met before, but they came together rather—well, there’s no other way to put this—organically. Aeroponics expert Panos Bairamis says, “Everyone had different ideas to contribute and so every time we had a problem, someone came up with a good idea. We really liked that.”

Popeye on Mars presentation

Popeye on Mars presentation

What to grow? They chose spinach because its cultivation is fairly typical, so the concept could be easily adapted to other plant breeds. With the design, they focused on creating a deployable greenhouse that is small, self-sustaining, and easy to use.

The Popeye on Mars team has gone on to win Best Mission Concept for the 2013 International Space Apps Challenge.  A local mediastorm has followed them since, including a few TV spots. “After our win, many people came to Hackerspace for the first time, and have learned about open source.” Panos is now offering newcomers to Hackerspace classes on how to grow with aeroponics, and the Popeye on Mars team continues to build on their work.

Panos added a cultural detail: “Here in Greece, when we want to say that someone is smart, we have an expression. We say, ‘He works at NASA.’”

Through the magic of participatory collaboration, everyone can work with NASA.

About Sarah

Communications Strategist

Open Innovation Program

NASA Headquarters