While astronauts have successfully grown plants and vegetables aboard the International Space Station, NASA scientists at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida are collaborating with a university team to develop long-term methods that could help sustain pioneers working in deep space.
Agency researchers believe while there are many challenges for human exploration beyond Earth, they are convinced there are solutions. According to Dr. Ray Wheeler, lead scientist in Kennedy Advanced Life Support Research, the Prototype Lunar/Mars Greenhouse project will support ongoing research in space to grow vegetables for food and cultivating plants to sustain life support systems.
"We're working with a team of scientists, engineers and small businesses at the University of Arizona to develop a closed-loop system," he said. "The approach uses plants to scrub carbon dioxide, while providing food and oxygen."
The prototype involves an inflatable, deployable greenhouse to support plant and crop production for nutrition, air revitalization, water recycling and waste recycling. The process is called a bioregenerative life support system.