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NASA and Biosphere 2: Future research for Deep Space Habitats (DSH)

In my recent EDN article, Man’s endeavor to live beyond Planet Earth, I discussed the present efforts of NASA and the Biosphere 2 in their efforts towards a Bio-Regenerative Life Support System (BLSS), a critical component for sustainable long-term space missions. NASA’s 2016 budget has allocated $55M for a DSH effort.

Now I will discuss the future efforts by NASA and the Biosphere 2 towards a functional BLSS.

Before we have a fully workable Mars-Lunar Greenhouse (MLGH), scientists will need to refine the prototype and optimize it for poly-cultivation (wide diversity of crops) systems integrated into the future BLSS architecture. The MLGH modules will become a necessary component for DSH.

The Biosphere 2 provides an excellent test facility for DSH development. The Biosphere 2 is the first DSH analog; it is a 3.1 acre, controlled environment research facility with diverse biomes: A desert, mangrove and wetland, and a tropical rainforest for this effort. See Figure 1.

Figure 1

The University of Arizona (UA)-Biosphere 2 facility is shown at the top of Figure 1 with the West 'lung' dome shown towards the lower side of the top image; The DSH is shown in the bottom image inside the West 'lung' (Image courtesy of Reference 1)

The University of Arizona (UA)-Biosphere 2 facility is shown at the top of Figure 1 with the West ‘lung’ dome shown towards the lower side of the top image; The DSH is shown in the bottom image inside the West ‘lung’ (Image courtesy of Reference 1)

To see what a Biosphere 2 ‘lung’ is and look like, see the YouTube video below:

The U of A goal is to construct a DSH prototype inside the Biosphere 2 west ‘lung’ in the form of an inflatable structure (See my EDN article mentioned in the first paragraph above)

The central hub, an MLGH module, and a Bio-recycling module inside the Biosphere 2

Once the DSH is set up in the West ‘lung’, a Mars surface replica could be created along with an outreach program for Biosphere 2 visitors to view through a one-way glass viewing area so that the potential crews, who can occupy the facility for some days, can go about their work undisturbed—as if on Mars.

Figure 2

 A cross-section of the habitat Central Hub Module (CHM) (Image courtesy of Reference 1)

A cross-section of the habitat Central Hub Module (CHM) (Image courtesy of Reference 1)

Figure 3

 A representation of the bio-recycle module (Image courtesy of Reference 1)

A representation of the bio-recycle module (Image courtesy of Reference 1)

The CHM will be a two-level structure with the upper floor containing operating systems, water storage (radiation protection) and the cupola viewing room. It has an added I-beam with aluminum skin and additional supporting materials for strength.

Research will be done there once completed and some of the first research tasks will be:

1 Food production and diet

2 In-situ labor and telepresence

3 a study of dust penetration inside the habitat

This effort will help progress towards NASA’s pursuit of a Manned Mission to Mars and the Moon and deployment of a livable habitat while they are there. Stay tuned to Planet Analog and EDN for more progress in this area from my exclusive NASA visits.

References

Mars-Lunar Greehouse (MLGH) Prototype for Bioregenerative Life Support Systems: Current Status and Future Efforts, Roberto Furfaro, Sean Gellenbeck, and Gene Giacomelli, The University of Arizona,and Phil Sadler, Sadler Machining Company, Tempe, Arizona

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