We are truly at a unique point in human history. Having just accomplished the astounding feat of landing a spacecraft on a speeding comet, it seems that we have entered the era of science fiction.
So what’s next?
Scientists have been trying to tackle the issue of recycling in space for decades. During the 1970’s, scientists and engineers at Stanford University were asked to come up with ideas about how a self sustaining environment could be created for humans to live in, far away from our planet. This accomplishment would be the first step in the process of colonizing outer space. Optimists predicted that such a project could be completed by the year 2005, but forty years later it is still a distant vision.
To supply astronauts with food and supplies during their mission costs huge sums of money. It is estimated that a single kilo costs thousands of dollars just to transport to the International Space Station (ISS). Since maintaining a supply chain from earth during an extended journey into the stars would be impossible, these future ventures would rely on a closed life-support system. This is why a new EU- funded research project is underway regarding the possibility of cultivating food crops in outer space, which could supply travelers into outer space with oxygen and food.
This research project, entitled TIME SCALE will be headed by Ann-Iren Kittang Jost, research chief at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Space, which is located and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. One of the biggest issues that the scientists face is learning about how certain plants interact with their new, different environment. Kittang says that “One of the biggest challenges is to administer exactly the right amount of water and nutrients to the plants in such little gravity.”
It is predicted that a closed, self sustaining environment could be operational in space by the year 2050. The research conducted by the Norwegian team of scientists would be vital to this undertaking, and to our end goal of extending humanities reach into our solar system and beyond.
If you’re weird like me and want to learn more about the complications of growing plants in space, check out this youtube video by the European Space Agency:
Thanks for reading!