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Light, plants, and power for life support on MarsRegardless of how well other growing conditions are optimized, crop yields will be limited by the available light up to saturation irradiances. Considering the various factors of clouds on Earth, dust storms on Mars, thickness of atmosphere, and relative orbits, there is roughly 2/3 as much light averaged annually on Mars as on Earth. On Mars, however, crops must be grown under controlled conditions (greenhouse or growth rooms). Because there presently exists no material that can safely be pressurized, insulated, and resist hazards of puncture and deterioration to create life support systems on Mars while allowing for sufficient natural light penetration as well, artificial light will have to be supplied. If high irradiance is provided for long daily photoperiods, the growing area can be reduced by a factor of 3-4 relative to the most efficient irradiance for cereal crops such as wheat and rice, and perhaps for some other crops. Only a small penalty in required energy will be incurred by such optimization. To obtain maximum yields, crops must be chosen that can utilize high irradiances. Factors that increase ability to convert high light into increased productivity include canopy architecture, high-yield index (harvest index), and long-day or day-neutral flowering and tuberization responses. Prototype life support systems such as Bios-3 in Siberia or the Mars on Earth Project need to be undertaken to test and further refine systems and parameters.
Document ID
Document Type
Reprint (Version printed in journal)
Salisbury, F. B. (Utah State University Logan, UT, United States)
Dempster, W. F.
Allen, J. P.
Alling, A.
Bubenheim, D.
Nelson, M.
Silverstone, S.
Date Acquired
August 21, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2002
Publication Information
Publication: Life support & biosphere science : international journal of earth space
Volume: 8
Issue: 3-4
ISSN: 1069-9422
Subject Category
Man/System Technology and Life Support
Distribution Limits
Non-NASA Center
NASA Discipline Life Support Systems