NASA Develops Inflatable Greenhouse To Grow Plants On Mars

Posted: Apr 26 2017, 6:49am CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

 
NASA Develops Inflatable Greenhouse to Grow Plants on Mars
Lunar greenhouse chamber is A prototype bioregenerative life support system. Credits: University of Arizona

The greenhouse system mimics the way plant grow on Earth and could provide a major food source during long term mission on moon, Mars and beyound

NASA is experimenting with different types of plants that could grow best in space and provide food for astronauts on their way to future space missions, including moon and Mars. Some plant varieties and vegetables have already grown aboard International Space Station too. For this purpose, researchers use a deployable plant growth unit capable of producing crops under microgravity conditions. But they need more sustainable methods that should not merely allow plants to surive and provide a major food source but also improve an astronaut’s diet with fresh vegetables and offer a sense of home planet.

NASA scientists at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida have recently unveiled an inflatable greenhouse that could one day be used to grow food on deep space destinations. The prototype greenhouse will mainly provide lightning and nutrition to plants and vegetables. In addition, it will support the processes of air revitalization, water recycling and waste recycling for the crew. The process is called a bioregenerative life support system and it replicates the way plants grown on Earth.

"We're mimicking what the plants would have if they were on Earth and make use of these processes for life support," said Dr. Gene Giacomelli from University of Arizona. "The entire system of the lunar greenhouse does represent, in a small way, the biological systems that are here on Earth."

While early in its development, the prototype greenhouse is cylindrical and measures 18 feet long and around 8 feet wide. Once arrive at an outer space world, the inflatable greenhouse will buried under surface soil or regolith for protecting it from radiation. The system is capable of tracking the sun light and then conveying it to the chamber using fiber optic bundles.

On moon and Mars, plants would have to tolerate conditions that usually stop their growth and reproduction - severe cold, drought, low air pressure, unfamiliar soils that they didn't evolve for. Researchers see the greenhouse system as a way to maintain plant growth during beyond Earth exploration. It will also help determine what plants, seeds or other materials should be taken along to make the system work on the moon or Mars.

Dr. Ray Wheeler, lead scientist in Kennedy Advanced Life Support Research says. “The greenhouses provide a more autonomous approach to long-term exploration on the moon, Mars and beyond."

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