Investigation of bio-regenerative life support and trash-to-gas experiment on a 4 month Mars simulation mission.
Future crewed missions to other planets or deep space locations will require regenerative Life Support Systems (LSS) as well as recycling processes for mission waste. Constant resupply of many commodity materials will not be a sustainable option for deep space missions, nor will stowing trash on board a vehicle or at a lunar or Martian outpost. The habitable volume will decline as the volume of waste increases. A complete regenerative environmentally controlled life support system (ECLSS) on an extra-terrestrial outpost will likely include physico-chemical and biological technologies, such as bioreactors and greenhouse modules. Physico-chemical LSS do not enable food production and bio-regenerative LSS are not stable enough to be used alone in space. Mission waste that cannot be recycled into the bio-regenerative ECLSS can include excess food, food packaging, clothing, tape, urine and fecal waste. This waste will be sent to a system for converting the trash into high value products. Two crew members on a 120 day Mars analog simulation, in collaboration with Kennedy Space Center’s (KSC) Trash to Gas (TtG) project investigated a semi-closed loop system that treated non-edible biomass and other logistical waste for volume reduction and conversion into useful commodities. The purpose of this study is to show how plant growth affects the amount of resources required by the habitat and how spent plant material can be recycled. Real-time data was sent to the reactor at KSC in Florida for replicating the analog mission waste for laboratory operation. This paper discusses the 120 day mission plant growth activity, logistical and plant waste management, power and water consumption effects of the plant and logistical waste, and potential energy conversion techniques using KSC’s TtG technology.
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