Photo: Carmen Jaspersen
"We will ultimately simulate and test greenhouses that could be put on the Moon or Mars (inside a habitat) providing fresh food for a crew by using a closed system to convert waste into manure in a controlled manner," says DLR biologist Dr. Jens Hauslage, who leads the science mission. For example, in a lunar habitat, the greenhouse would be inside - where even the astronauts are in an Earth-like atmosphere. One of the waste products that would be produced with great regularity would be the urine of the astronauts. The plants would have to adapt to the reduced gravity: the moon only has about a sixth of Earth’s gravity, Mars about one third.
Researchers from the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in Bremen and Cologne will be watching what goes on in the small ecosystem inside the satellite. The findings are important for future space missions to the moon and Mars, said project manager Hartmut Müller. The tests with the tomato plants in space would take one and a half years in all.