German scientists are developing a way for astronauts to grow fruit and vegetables in space by building specialized greenhouses to create a Mars colony. German Aerospace Center engineers have already successfully grown dozens of lettuces under pink light.
The Mars greenhouses will be fully equipped with life-support systems, utilizing recycled urine to produce fertilizer which will help the plants grow more effectively for their lunar and Mars environment.
The plants in the greenhouses will produce oxygen and give off water, which can be used for drinking. Not only will the fresh space food help nourish astronauts, having a garden will give them a mood-boosting activity.
Daniel Schubert one of the project’s engineers explains, “Anyone who spends two to three years in a tin can with artificial light, many cables and a high level of noise, is going to want to have something green around them at the very least.”
In a sealed greenhouse system with 24-hours of daylight, the plants tend to grow extremely fast. They do not require soil, but instead, grow in a hanging position; their roots sprayed frequently with nutrients.
Part of the goal is to trade transporting kilos of food with seeds, saving on space missions cost and weight. Schuber says, “Every kilo which is taken from Earth into orbit, costs up to €20,000.”
Research is set for nine months of testing in an inhospitable Antarctic environment beginning 2016.