How to Get Food and Water That Astronauts Need on Mars?

If we want to send the crew to remote locations, we need to find solutions to meet the basic needs of the crew. For astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS), which regularly receive replenishment missions from Earth, this is not a problem. But for missions traveling to destinations on Mars and beyond, self-sufficiency is the name of the game.

This is the idea behind projects like BIOWYSE and TIME SCALE developed by the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Space (CIRiS) in Norway. These two systems are about providing astronauts with a sustainable and renewable supply of drinking water and herbal food. In doing so, they address two of the most important needs of people doing long-term tasks that take them away from home.

Roughly 80% of the water in the ISS is water vapor in the air produced by breathing and sweating, as well as recycled shower water and urine – all of which have been treated with chemicals to make it safe to drink.

Food is another matter. NASA estimates that each astronaut at the ISS will consume 0.83 kg (1.83 pounds) of food per meal, which will consume about 2.5 kg (5.5 lbs) per day. About 0.12 kg (0.27 pounds) of each meal comes from packaging material alone, which means that a single astronaut will produce close to a pound of waste per day – and that doesn’t even include other types of “waste” from food.

In short, ISS relies on costly supply tasks to provide 20% of its water and all of its food. But if astronauts set up stations on the moon and Mars, that might not be an option. While sending supplies to the Moon can be done in three days, it will make the cost of sending food and water prohibitive, which must be done regularly. Meanwhile, the spacecraft takes eight months to reach Mars, which is completely impractical.

How to Get Food and Water That Astronauts Need on Mars?

It is therefore not surprising that the proposed mission architectures for the Moon and Mars include in-situ resource utilization (ISRU), which astronauts will use to be as self-sufficient as possible. Ice on the lunar and Martian surfaces, one example of this, will be used to provide drinking and irrigation water. However, missions for deep space locations will not have this option during the transition.

To ensure a sustainable water supply, Dr. Emmanouil Detsis and colleagues are developing Biocontamine Integrated Control of Wet Systems (BIOWYSE) for Space Research. This project started as a search for ways to store fresh water for a long time, monitor signs of contamination in real time, decontaminate it with UV light (rather than chemicals), and dispense it as needed.

Biolab impression of the artist. A facility designed to support biological experiments on microorganisms, small plants and small invertebrates. Credit: ESA – D. Ducros

Dr. As Detsis explains: “We wanted a system from A to Z, from storing water to making it available for someone to drink. This means you store the water, you can monitor the biocontamination, You can disinfect it if necessary and finally deliver it to the glass for drinking… You press the button when someone wants to drink water. Like a water cooler. “

In addition to monitoring the stored water, the BIOWYSE machine can also analyze wet surfaces inside a spacecraft for signs of contamination. This can cause water to accumulate in uncontaminated areas due to moisture accumulation in closed systems such as spacecraft and space stations. After this water is recovered, it is necessary to decontaminate all water stored in the system.

Dr. Detsis said, “The system has been designed considering the future living spaces. It can be used for years on the space station or a station on Mars. “

The Technology and Innovation for the Development of Modular Equipment in Advanced Scalable Life Support Systems for Space Research (TIME SCALE) project is designed to recycle water and nutrients for the sake of growing plants. This project is a project by Drstorm from the Space Interdisciplinary Research Center (CIRiS) in Norway. Moderated by Ann-IrenKittangJost.

This system is no different from the European Modular Cultivation System (EMCS) or Biolab system, which was sent to the ISS in 2006 and 2018 (respectively) to conduct biological experiments in space. Inspired by these systems, Dr. Jost and his colleagues designed a “space greenhouse” that could grow plants and monitor their health.

Dr. Jost, ‘the future to the Moon and Mars space researches We need the latest technologies to grow food for food. (ECMS) is to describe concepts and technologies to learn more about the cultivation of crops. It is a starting point for growing plants in microgravity. ”

Plants grown in TPU autonomous greenhouse. Credit: TPU

Like its predecessor Biolab and ECMS, the TIME SCALE prototype relies on a moving centrifuge to simulate the Moon and Mars gravity and measure its effect on the nutrient and water uptake of plants. This system can also help greenhouses reuse nutrients and water here, and more advanced sensor technology to monitor plant health and growth.

Technologies like this will be crucial when it comes time to establish a human presence on the Moon and Mars and for the sake of deep space missions. In the coming years, NASA is planning the long-awaited return with Project Artemis, which will be the first step in creating what they designed as a program for “sustainable moon research”.

Much of this vision is based on the creation of an orbital habitat (Moon Gate) and the surface infrastructure (Artemis Base Camp) required to support a permanent human presence. Similarly, when NASA begins crewed missions to Mars, mission architecture builds an orbital habitat (Mars Base Camp), possibly one at the surface.

In any case, the stations will need to be relatively self-sufficient because their replenishment missions will not be able to reach them within a few hours.

Dr. Detsis said, “It will not be like ISS. You won’t always have a stable team. It should be considered that the station may be empty for three or four months (or longer) and microorganism activity may occur in water and other sources until the next crew arrives. ”

Technologies that can ensure a safe, clean and stable supply of drinking water and the cultivation of plants in a sustainable manner will enable stations to achieve self-sufficiency in deep space missions and to be less dependent on Earth.

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