Scientists Set To Launch The First Space Farm

Andrew Follett | Energy and Science Reporter

German scientists are working with NASA to launch the first experimental space farming satellite into orbit later this year.

The satellite will conduct plant-growth experiments in both lunar and Martian gravity as well as other simulated space conditions. The satellite is scheduled to be launched into orbit aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in July 2017.

“Ultimately, we are simulating and testing greenhouses that could be assembled inside a lunar or Martian habitat to provide the crew with a local source of fresh food,” Dr. Jens Hauslage, a biologists at the German Aerospace Center, said in a press statement. “The system would do this by managing the controlled conversion of waste into fertilizer.”

When it is in space, the satellite will start growing tomato seeds, monitoring the plant’s growth with 16 on-board cameras. The farm will contain microorganisms that will use synthetic urine to produce fertilizer for the tomatoes and other microbes to produce oxygen for the system and supply it with protection against excess ammonia.

Hauslage specifically noted that if raised by astronauts on the moon or Mars, the tomatoes would have been fertilized with their bodily waste and subjected to cosmic radiation similar to what they’d get on a trip to Mars.

The satellite will use an artificial light-emitting diode (LED) to replicate Earth’s day/night cycle and a pressure tank to simulate the atmosphere.

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