Growing Food in Space

Once we establish living habitats in space, it will not be practical to lift food out of the gravity well on Earth for consumption in space. Rather, food will be grown where it is consumed, using advanced agricultural techniques and robot attendants. Gravity will be supplied by rotation of the habitat. Water used in agriculture will be part of the complete life support system and recycled. Plant growth also becomes part of the life support system, helping to absorb carbon dioxide, produce oxygen and purify the atmosphere.

Growing Vegetables in Space

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If humans are to go on long space explorations, to Mars or beyond the solar system, they will need to be able to grow food in space ships or or space stations. A team at CU-Boulder is developing a system for space gardening with robots.

Air, water, energy and food in a nutshell: Space exploration as driver for sustainable robotic agriculture – [robohub.org]

Targeting a sustainable presence of humans in outer space will require solving air, water, energy, and food supplies within a few thousand cubic feet surrounded by vacuum. What seems at first sight to be a problem of an apocalyptic, remote future reveals itself as the grand challenges of our civilization in a nutshell. This article argues that space exploration can be one of the main drivers to revolutionize sustainable agriculture on earth.

To Garden in Space We Need All Kinds of Robots – [21stcentech.com]

July 12, 2014 – When existing in outer space becomes second nature to humanity it will be accompanied by gardens and robotic helpers to ensure their survival. By gardens I’m not referring to the planting of rose bushes. I’m talking about food gardens.

Graduate students at University of Colorado Boulder, are among five teams from other academic institutions who have been given the green light to develop technologies to meet a NASA challenge – grow and harvest plants distributed through a Deep Space habitat while involving the human crew as little as possible in the process. The Colorado students answer is the Distributed Remotely Operated Plant Production System (DROPPS).

Space Gardening? Ohio State Creates Food-production System for Future NASA Missions – [osu.edu]

WOOSTER, Ohio — Say you are on Mars and fancy a salad. Unless the Curiosity rover can make an unexpected find of fresh romaine somewhere on the dusty Red Planet, you are looking at a nine-month trip to the nearest produce aisle on Earth. A better option? Grow the salad yourself.

That’s exactly the approach NASA is taking as it plans for future manned expeditions to places like the moon or Mars, where food availability will be a significant challenge. Joining this mission is a team of Ohio State University researchers and students who are helping NASA figure out the best way to grow food aboard space exploration units.

The team, from the university’s Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering (FABE), designed and built a food-production system for NASA’s Deep Space Habitat (DSH) — a space module with living quarters, workspaces and laboratories that is expected to enable human exploration in faraway environments.

“Our system is automated so that the crew doesn’t have to spend too much time taking care of the plants,” said Peter Ling, an associate professor in FABE and faculty advisor in the project. “The system controls irrigation and monitors plant temperature and health. At the bottom of the unit there is a weight plate that detects water leakage and water loss by plants, and also estimates growth.

“The idea is that this unit will one day be a regenerative life-support system not just for growing food, but also for purifying the air, producing oxygen and cleaning wastewater.”

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