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Hanging Gardens of Mars: This Inflatable Greenhouse Could Grow Vegetables, Feed Astronauts on the Red Planet

Apr 26, 2017 02:40 PM EDT
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Transporting humans to Mars is just one part of the mission, creating a sustainable colony with ample food supply is another. Scientists are developing an inflatable hanging greenhouse technology conducive to growing vegetables on the red planet.

Astronauts need habitat and food to survive in the long haul while in space. The hanging gardens with inflatable greenhouses are being considered for the upcoming journey to Mars in 2030.

NASA scientists are working with universities to develop a sustainable food source for the Martian and lunar missions. The agency believes that food source is one of the most challenging issues they are facing when it comes to deep space explorations. The Prototype Lunar/Mars Greenhouse project is specifically designed to grow vegetables and feed astronauts on Mars.

"We're working with a team of scientists, engineers and small businesses at the University of Arizona to develop a closed-loop system," Dr. Ray Wheeler, lead scientist in Kennedy Advanced Life Support Research said in a press release. "The approach uses plants to scrub carbon dioxide while providing food and oxygen."

The hanging inflatable greenhouse's design can support and cultivate production of crops. All factors are carefully being considered in the development phase such as air revitalization, water recycling, nutrition, and wastes. Scientists are using the "bio-regenerative" life support system to mimic how greenhouses on Earth work.

The carbon dioxide from astronauts will be reintroduced to the greenhouse so that the plants can initiate photosynthesis and generate oxygen. Oxygenated water with infused nutrient salt will flow across the root zone of the inflatable greenhouse.

The inflatable greenhouse that can grow vegetables and feed astronauts on Mars is currently being studied at the University of Arizona. The university also released Images of the inflatable greenhouse.

"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. The greenhouses provide a more autonomous approach to long-term exploration on the moon, Mars and beyond."

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