Mushrooms on Mars: A Subsystem for Human Life Support



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49th International Conference on Environmental Systems


An important component for human spaceflight missions and habitat development is the life support system which provides the oxygen, fresh water, caloric energy, and nutrition for human life, as well as waste mitigation and processing. All the current technologies rely on consumables provided by resupply missions from Earth, and waste mitigation practices often include the jettison or storage of these products which ultimately leads to the need for resupply missions to replenish the lost resources. This becomes a significant challenge to long-term human spaceflight as the distance makes continuous resupply missions unrealistic. An approach to life support that could solve these problems is bioregenerative life support (BLS) which utilizes biology-based technologies. Food production in a BLS system (BLSS) is accomplished through the growth of higher plants (e.g. leafy greens, legumes, grains, root crops). However, the inedible biomass (IEB) from these crops presents a loss of resources and waste within the life support system. The biological recycling of this waste stream could be addressed with a mushroom growing subsystem, which would offer the ability to naturally breakdown the inedible plant biomass and convert it into a source of high-quality protein and other nutrients for the crew. Our work not only demonstrated the feasibility of this solution but also determined that an appropriately sized mushroom subsystem coupled to a higher plants (food crops) growing system was capable of consuming all the inedible biomass produced by the higher plants. This helps to close the waste recycling loop and contributes significantly to the complete closure of the system, thereby reducing the reliance on resupply missions for the replacement of resources. The inclusion of a mushroom subsystem into a BLS system was estimated to reduce the required plant growing area and electrical needs of the life support system by 33% and 31% respectively.


Sean Gellenbeck, University of Arizona (UA), USA
Gene Giacomelli, University of Arizona (UA), USA
Barry Pryor, University of Arizona (UA), USA
ICES204: Bioregenerative Life Support
The 49th International Conference on Environmental Systems was held in Boston, Massachusetts, USA on 07 July 2019 through 11 July 2019.


Bioregenerative Life Support, BLS, Bioregenerative Life Support System, BLSS, Fully Integrated Bioregenerative Life Support System, FI-BLSS, Mushrooms on Mars, Mushrooms, Mars Lunar Greenhouse, MLGH, University of Arizona