NASA recently funded several research programs designed to find new ways of recycling human waste into perfectly edible food that can be used by spacecraft crews on deep space missions such as Mars.
For this purpose, a research team from the Clemson University in South Carolina was given a $200,000 annual grant. The research would last up to three years, NASA recently announced.
NASA has given seven more grants to U.S. universities, which were asked to find “innovative” and “early stage” technological means that would provide viable solutions to some of the problems the U.S. space program currently faces including sustainability of astronauts during lengthy space journeys.
Clemson University researchers are also using bioengineered yeast to create plastics out of human urine. The yeast can also yield Omega3, a fatty acid which is very beneficial to human cardiovascular system, eyesight, blood pressure, skin, and hair.
But in order to reach maturity, yeast needs a lot of nitrogen which can be found in human urine. Yeast also uses fatty acids to grow. These acids can be produced by some species of algae out of the carbon astronauts expire while they are breathing.
Researchers plan to recycle carbon and nitrogen and help yeast turn them into polymers and Omega3.
“These early career researchers will provide fuel for NASA’s innovation engine,”
noted Steve Jurczyk, of the U.S. space agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate.
A week ago, NASA announced that the crew members of the International Space Station were able harvest and take a bite of edible space lettuce grown in the ISS’s Veggie plant growth system.
The fresh space lettuce which was dubbed the “outredgeous” lettuce due to its reddish color is not the first veggie grown in space, but it is a novelty for NASA. The space agency currently plans to develop space farming technologies that can make possible manned missions to remote locations such as the Red Plane or moving asteroids.
Space grown plants would also be a key factor in extended missions such as a mission to colonize Mars. In those missions reprocessing human waste and providing fresh oxygen and food is crucial for human crews’ survival .
NASA also hopes that the new technologies that may be developed in the process may even help agriculture here on our planet. As world population grows and natural resources become scarce recycling human waste may be the next best thing.
Early this year, NASA announced a program to take a human crew to Mars by 2030.
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