What is the state-of-the-art research that NASA is trying to obtain food in the universe aiming for Mars migration colony?

Technology related news siteMOTHERBOARDWriter has visited the laboratory of the Kennedy Space Center of NASA and is in the process of interviewing the ongoing research on "getting food in the universe". There, various researches are being conducted aiming to realize the magnificent dream of mankind "Mars migration plan".

Inside NASA's Space Farming Labs - Motherboard

Food for astronauts working at the International Space Station (ISS) are freeze dried food supplemented with cargo replenishment missions. Not only are these foods tasteless, but there is a cost problem of roughly 10,000 dollars (about 1.1 million yen) per pound (450 grams), roughly estimated from rocket launch costs, It is an essential task to realize and create food in outer space for the ultimate purpose of living with another star, and in August 2015 it finally led to the achievement of cultivating fresh lettuce at ISS It was. The "Veggie" project which cultivated vegetables for the first time in this universe is explained in the following article.

Vegetable cultivation project in space promoted by NASA "VEGGIE" - GIGAZINE

NASA continues its research on food production technology in space after that, and various experiments are being conducted in the laboratory of the Kennedy Space Center. In the laboratory of Dr. Brian Onnight, food production equipment called "Advanced Plant Habitat (APH)" is under development. At the glance of the following, a device such as a microwave oven is APH, it is designed according to the living space of ISS.

Among the APH, a kind of vegetables of Arabidopsis cabbage is grown under the light of the LED. Researchers can control the numerical values ​​of oxygen and nutrients in APH, and it is possible to measure and control up to the temperature of leaves one by one. Moreover, such environmental control is said to be automated by a computer system called PHARMER.

Although APH is still in the experimental stage, it is a system like Veggie's "Brothers" which has already been put into practical use, and it is used to search for optimal growth conditions of various kinds of vegetables. According to Dr. Onneit, it is planned to take over Veggie by utilizing the supplementary mission that delivers supplies to the ISS twice. The main research of APH is to train plants in the universe, recover a part of it, bring it back to the earth, collect the seeds, bring them up at the Kennedy Space Center at NASA, bring the plants back to the ISS again, It seems to be to confirm whether the plant grows even if the plant moves between microgravity environments.

In Kennedy Space Center, there is also a large-sized environmental control device that can be called "a walk-in type sterile freezer". In this gigantic device, it is possible to reproduce all environment variables used in ISS. The only thing that can not be reproduced is precision equipment at the level of only microgravity.

Thanks to this large scale device, we can manage the soil condition of the vegetables cultivated in the ISS environment with the Veggie program, and examine how the microgravity environment affects the growth of plants compared to the Earth I can do it. The experiment has been extremely well so far, it is believed that ISS astronauts will be able to raise lettuce that is far more flavorful than the red lettuce cultivated previously, researchers say " If you can make enough lettuce with ISS to make a salad, you will receive a big welcome from the astronaut. "

This is a chip-like clay used to grow plants in the universe.

NASA, which succeeded the Veggie project to cultivate vegetables in space, is conducting a longer term plant cultivation test as the next step. In this research, the goal is plant cultivation at a level that can constantly and continually replenish the eating habits of ISS astronauts.

Mr. Ralph Fritche, Food Production Project Manager at the Kennedy Space Center, acknowledged that "Small-scale cultivation of lettuce at ISS is a wonderful achievement" and cultivates enough vegetables to satisfy the astronaut's stomach still He said that he is doing research on a longer-term aspect from the current situation that he can not do. In other words, research for the mass production of plants in the universe is carried out.

However, mass production of plants in outer space is considered to have a very high level of technical difficulty. The big cause is in microgravity. On the earth, water stored by gravity is drawn up from the roots of the plant, but in the universe the water gathers in a spherical shape and does not evenly spread over the roots of the plant and as a result it also hinders the supply of oxygen contained in the moisture It will be done.

Two methods have been devised to solve the problem peculiar to this space. One is an "active system" that forcibly pumps water into the root part that seeks water necessary for plant growth. We supply water by applying pressure and circulating water.

The other is "passive system" utilizing 3D printed nylon board. In this system seeds are spread in the center of cubes with compact nylon tubes with a triangular cross section. Nylon attracts water because of its hydrophilic nature, but by spreading water in a triangular cross section by the surface tension, water is kept dispersed, so that moisture can be supplied evenly to the roots of the plant It is designed to. In addition, it can also send air from inside the tube.

Mr. Fritsch is planning to have this passive system in the semi - orbital flight test and is thinking to send it to the ISS if good results come out. By the way, Mr. Fritsch said that growing vegetables on Mars predicts less problems than growing plants on orbit like ISS. The reason is that since Mars has gravity even though it is one third the size of the Earth, the same system as agriculture done on Earth can be applied on Mars.

However, it is said that optimum conditions are being explored in order to develop a method to cultivate the maximum amount of plants within a limited range such as the interior of the ISS and the greenhouse that will be produced on Mars. In addition to growing to a level that can be eaten in just a few weeks after seeding, NASA has been exploring NASA to nurture the optimal plant for astronauts called "Myurogreen" which is rich in nutrients and flavor It is.

A German team conducting a project to self-sufficiency food at ISS is studying a food production system utilizing "human urine".

BBC - Future - Why a German lab is growing tomatoes in urine

Dr. Jens Houselage, a plant physiologist at the German Aerospace Center, said, "Earth's plants are closed biological systems that produce oxygen and food, and animals and bacteria are responsible for soil decomposition processes. Without these biological systems, it is impossible to realize a sustainable and long-term food production system, "he stated, utilizing microorganisms contained in human urine to produce fertilizer and harvest tomatoes I am studying the system.

in Science,   Creature,   Junk Food, Posted by darkhorse_log