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Plants for Human Life Support and Space ExplorationThe concept of using plants and algae for human life support in space goes back to testing in the 1950s and 1960. The basis for this is harnessing photosynthesis to generate oxygen, remove and fix carbon dioxide, and produce food. For several decades, NASA conducted studies with crops in controlled environments to assess their requirements for optimum growth. This includes tests with wheat, soybeans, potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes, and other crops. In many ways, these studies have paralleled growing interests in controlled environment agriculture on Earth. For example, NASA operated perhaps the first working example of a vertical agriculture facility in the late 1980s. The facility used recirculating hydroponic systems to conserve water and nutrients, with multiple growing shelves and light banks. NASA also pioneered the use LED lighting for growing plants. Findings from these tests suggest that an area of 20-25 sq m of crops could provide all the O2 for one human, and about 40-50 sq m could provide all the O2 and food. But this is dependent on the amount of light provided. Most of these studies targeted surface settings like habitats on Mars or the Moon. Growing plants in weightless settings, like the International Space Station (ISS) requires different approaches to contain and deliver water to plants, but lettuce, mizuna, pea, and other crops have been grown in small chambers aboard the ISS to provide supplemental fresh food for the astronauts.
Document ID
Acquisition Source
Kennedy Space Center
Document Type
Wheeler, Raymond M.
(NASA Kennedy Space Center Cocoa Beach, FL, United States)
Date Acquired
November 14, 2017
Publication Date
November 10, 2017
Subject Category
Man/System Technology And Life Support
Report/Patent Number
Meeting Information
Meeting: Plants Beyond Limits Conference
Location: Orlando, FL
Country: United States
Start Date: November 10, 2017
Sponsors: University of Central Florida
Funding Number(s)
WBS: WBS 089407.01.76
Distribution Limits
Portions of document may include copyright protected material.
Life Support
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