Thermal Degradation and Rapid Composting of Inedible Biomass and Logistical Waste for Crop Production and Resource Recovery in Space Applications



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2024 International Conference on Environmnetal Systems


This paper describes the processing of multiple types of NASA waste simulant feedstocks into commercial table-top composting units and trash-to-gas technology processing units to measure and observe the elemental composition of the remaining solids, and if those have eligible nutrients for crop production. This work merges the research of the NASA crop production and trash management teams to study optimal waste handling. Performance data for each unit was collected during the testing, including solid to gas conversion, liquid recovery, and power consumption. The feedstock waste of the compost and trash-to-gas systems included inedible biomass, Mars analog mission waste from the Johnson Space Center CHAPEA Mars analog, and long-duration waste simulant mixtures, known as the OSCAR Waste Simulant and OSCAR Full Scale (Mars 850-day) Waste Simulant. The recovered materials, including compost remains, solid char and ash, liquids, and produced gasses, were collected and analyzed to consider how these may be implemented in further applications for a fuller closed-loop regenerative cycle. The solid remains from the units were combined with lunar and Martian regolith at varying ratios to set up a crop germination study using Daikon Radish microgreens. Germination was successful in some of the regolith and regolith mixtures, while other factors may have inhibited the growth of crop production in the soil mixtures. While additional grow-outs will determine the full extent at which these can be used, the promising preliminary results determined that trash-to-gas solid products can be used as plant nutrients to enable crop growth in off-world regolith simulants.


Anne Meier, NASA Kennedy Space Center (KSC), USA
Jason Fischer, KSC LASSO, USA
Nicole Bolado, KSC LASSO, USA
Arin Crow, NASA Kennedy Space Center (KSC), USA
Connor Arnold, NASA Kennedy Space Center (KSC), USA
Juan Limeta Rios, NASA GEM Fellow, USA
Hanna Best, NASA Kennedy Space Center (KSC), USA
Jackson Smith, NASA Pathways Intern, USA
ICES308: Advanced Technologies for In-Situ Resource Utilization
The 53rd International Conference on Environmental Systems was held in Louisville, Kentucky, USA, on 21 July 2024 through 25 July 2024.


Trash-to-Gas, space waste, composting, inedible biomass, char, resource recovery, ISRU