Astronauts doing long missions in space are not getting the feast they deserve. The food they have access to is not only tasteless, but also very expensive: $10.000 per pound. For year-long missions, producing food in space could be the solution. Researchers from Arizona in cooperation with NASA recently unveiled an innovative inflatable greenhouse to grow fresh fruits and vegetables in space.
The greenhouse is a closed tube made of inflatable material. The carbon dioxide released by astronauts is collected and given to plants to help them grow. At the same time, oxygen can be generated from this system with benefits for both plants and astronauts. The water source will either be brought to the location by humans or collected around the area, depends on the location of the greenhouse. To protect the greenhouse from the harsh radiation of space, researchers are considering to bury the greenhouse underground and compensate for the lack of sunlight with LEDs or fibers, which redirect light from outside to the underground. Once functioning, the greenhouse would be able to supply astronauts with fresh food all year long.
There have been space farming plans and experiments done by NASA and SpaceX, but they were generally on a small scale. This greenhouse can be revolutionary in production size, which is an incredibly added value. “In microgravity, your taste sensation is dulled so astronauts like to have things a little bit spicier, sharper” said a researcher from NASA. Maybe we will soon see a greenhouse full of Chinese cabbage and eggplants on Mars, our first step to make it feel like home.