The Prototype Lunar/Mars Greenhouse project would allow astronauts on deep space missions access to healthy, fresh food year-round. Research is still ongoing to determine which plants, seeds, and other materials would be most suitable for use on the moon or Mars.
The prototype is an inflatable greenhouse specifically tuned to keep the plants happy and continuously growing and will provide food, scrub the breathing air while recycling both water and waste. In addition, the greenhouses will play a significant role in water recycling and waste disposal, thereby becoming a bioregenerative life support system. The CO2 astronauts exhale will be fed through the greenhouse so the plants can photosynthesize and generate oxygen.
NASA engineers and scientists are now developing systems to harness resources like water, which should be available in some regions of the Martian or lunar surface, to support long-lasting missions. Water will either be shuttled along from Earth or sourced from "the lunar or Martian landing site", NASA notes.
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The New York Post reports that NASA created the Prototype Lunar/Mars Greenhouse project in conjunction with the University of Arizona's Controlled Environment Agriculture Center. Scientists are using the "bio-regenerative" life support system to mimic how greenhouses on Earth work. Furfaro is a professor in the Systems and Industrial Engineering Department within the College of Engineering. They were designed and built by Sadler Machine Company, one of the project partners.
The Prototype Lunar Greenhouse (LGH) is hoped to help fulfill the late Ralph Steckler's dream of space colonization.
The plants would need to be protected from the harsh radiation of space on a planet without Earth's protective atmosphere, so the greenhouses would likely be buried under the ground for protection, and the plants would be fueled by special lighting instead of natural sunlight.
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"We've been successful in using electric LED (light emitting diode) lighting to grow plants", Dr. Wheeler said. The plan is to circle and then land on the surface of the Red Planet. The Veggie Plant Growth System was NASA's first attempt, and astronauts successfully harvested lettuce from that system.
"I think it's interesting to consider that we're taking our terrestrial companions with us", Wheeler added. "While there may be ways to engineer around it in terms of stowage and resupply, it wouldn't be as sustainable".
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