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NASA displays inflatable greenhouse that will help feed astronauts on Mars

Remember how incredibly difficult it was for Matt Damon to grow potatoes on Mars in the movie ‘The Martian’? Keeping that in mind or actual incidents – definitely the latter – a group of researchers from the University of Arizona along with a couple of scientists from NASA have created a novel inflatable greenhouse that will help feed astronauts on other planets. The Prototype Lunar/Mars Greenhouse project will enable astronauts to access healthy, fresh food all year round during deep space missions!

Credits: University of Arizona

So how does this inflatable greenhouse work? For starters, it is made of an inflatable material integrated with an astronaut’s life support systems. This means that the carbon dioxide released by the astronauts is used to grow plants which in turn produce oxygen while synthesizing food. Similarly, the water required for photosynthesis would be gathered on site, provided the site has ice or liquid water in close proximity. This water would then be oxygenated and infused with nutrient salts.

Credits: University of Arizona

Credits: University of Arizona

The idea is to recreate conditions suitable for plant growth such as those prevalent on Earth. This isn’t the scope of the research though; the team wishes to determine which seeds and plants would be best fit for Mars or the moon.

Since there is no ‘atmosphere’ on other planets, the plants will need protection from the harsh radiation of space. Hence these greenhouses will have to be made underground with an artificial light source as natural sunlight won’t be available. So far, the scientists have used LED lighting and light concentrators which channel natural sunlight from the outside via fiber optic bundles.

Credits: University of Arizona

Credits: University of Arizona

Experiments conducted on Earth have been successful as of now, but can astronauts rely on these inflatable greenhouses? I guess we’ll just have to wait for an astronaut’s success story!

h/t: Design Boom

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