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Plants for water recycling, oxygen regeneration and food productionDuring long-duration space missions that require recycling and regeneration of life support materials the major human wastes to be converted to usable forms are CO2, hygiene water, urine and feces. A Controlled Ecological Life Support System (CELSS) relies on the air revitalization, water purification and food production capabilities of higher plants to rejuvenate human wastes and replenish the life support materials. The key processes in such a system are photosynthesis, whereby green plants utilize light energy to produce food and oxygen while removing CO2 from the atmosphere, and transpiration, the evaporation of water from the plant. CELSS research has emphasized the food production capacity and efforts to minimize the area/volume of higher plants required to satisfy all human life support needs. Plants are a dynamic system capable of being manipulated to favour the supply of individual products as desired. The size and energy required for a CELSS that provides virtually all human needs are determined by the food production capacity. Growing conditions maximizing food production do not maximize transpiration of water; conditions favoring transpiration and scaling to recycle only water significantly reduces the area, volume, and energy inputs per person. Likewise, system size can be adjusted to satisfy the air regeneration needs. Requirements of a waste management system supplying inputs to maintain maximum plant productivity are clear. The ability of plants to play an active role in waste processing and the consequence in terms of degraded plant performance are not well characterized. Plant-based life support systems represent the only potential for self sufficiency and food production in an extra-terrestrial habitat.
Document ID
Document Type
Reprint (Version printed in journal)
Bubenheim, D. L. (NASA Ames Research Center Moffett Field CA United States)
Date Acquired
August 21, 2013
Publication Date
October 1, 1991
Publication Information
Publication: Waste management & research : the journal of the International Solid Wastes and Public Cleansing Association, ISWA
Volume: 9
Issue: 5
ISSN: 0734-242X
Subject Category
Man/System Technology and Life Support
Distribution Limits
NASA Discipline Life Support Systems
NASA Discipline Number 61-10