The Mars-Lunar Greenhouse (M-LGH) Prototype for Bio Regenerative Life Support: Current Status and Future Efforts
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Future human-based exploration of the solar system will require architecting, constructing and deploying missions on planetary bodies that last for years. Bio-regenerative Life Support Systems (BLSS) may be necessary for permanent outposts (e.g. > 6 months). BLSS uses plant-based biological processes to support the desired number of astronauts. As a complex, multi-component system, BLSS include 1) atmosphere revitalization, 2)water recycling, 3)food (vegetables) production, 4)organic waste recycling and 5)Power generation. In this paper, we describe an on-going effort, now currently in Phase III, called Mars-Lunar Greenhouse (M-LGH). Funded by NASA Ralph Steckler Program, our team has designed and constructed a set of four cylindrical innovative 5.5 m long by 1.8 m diameter membrane M-LGHs with a cable-based hydroponic crop production system in a controlled environment that exhibits a high degree of future Lunar and/or Mars mission fidelity. Here, we report the status of the current research effort, which includes: 1) evaluating M-LGH food production capabilities, 2) evaluating water balance (from liquid irrigation water, biomass and water vapor), carbon balance (from gaseous carbon dioxide and biomass) and energy balance (from electrical, heat, light and food calories produced); 3) providing an analysis of the fertilizer consumption (kg per are per time) and of the required environmental control (spatial/temporal climate uniformity); 4) developing a model for crop production simulation and control; 5) developing a solar energy plant lighting-based power system; 7) developing of innovative water-cooled Chip-On-Board LED lighting systems for space-based poly-cultivation systems; and 8) promote the STEM education access & outreach. Additionally, we report on projected future efforts which include the development and deployment of an analog Deep Space Habitat (DSH) within the University of Arizona’s Biosphere 2.