Astronauts make sacrifices to go into space. For long missions that are envisaged for the future — such as the months-long trip to Mars — the problem of bringing enough food or growing it en route is a concern to mission planners.
The Penn State team believes they might have found a solution: converting solid waste into edible biomass. The process uses anaerobic digestion, which is already widely used. The research leader, Christopher House (a geoscientist), commented: “Anaerobic digestion is something we use frequently on Earth for treating waste,” said House. “It’s an efficient way of getting mass treated and recycled. What was novel about our work was taking the nutrients out of that stream and intentionally putting them into a microbial reactor to grow food. The concept would be a little bit like Marmite or Vegemite where you’re eating a smear of ‘microbial goo.’”
The process is faster than conventional waste treatment, converting 49-59 per cent of solids in 13 hours. “That’s why this might have potential for future space flight,” House said. “It’s faster than growing tomatoes or potatoes.”
Nobody said space travel was going to be glamorous.
Read the complete article published by The Engineer, 5 February 2018