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Chinese astronauts prepare to grow vegetables on the Moon

By

December 5, 2012

Rather more terrestrial vegetables (Photo: sarsmis/Shutterstock)

Rather more terrestrial vegetables (Photo: sarsmis/Shutterstock)

According to China's state press agency, Xinhua, the country's Astronaut Research and Training Center has just perfected a system that can be used to grow vegetables in a closed system. The technology could be used to sustain astronauts with a source of food and oxygen in a possible future base on the Moon.

Earlier this year, the Asian superpower announced it was planning to land an unmanned craft on the Moon in the second half of 2013. China's ambitious space program also includes a long-term plan for a manned moon landing, although no timeframe has been set for the latter objective. Now, it looks as if the country is looking even beyond a simple manned landing, as it is developing the capabilities that could one day lead to an extended stay on our rocky satellite.

The experiment, in collaboration with German scientists, took place in the Closed Ecological Life Support Systems (CELSS), a small 300-m3 (10,000 ft3) cabin built in 2011 that is expected to be used in future extraterrestrial bases on the Moon or Mars.

Over the course of the experiment, two subjects lived inside the cabin and successfully managed to grow four different kinds of vegetables. The plants provided a steady source of food and oxygen for the astronauts, who, in turn, produced enough carbon dioxide to sustain plant growth. The system was shown to be sustainable in the long haul even though no new water or oxygen were introduced.

While a permanent moon base is probably still decades away, the system could find application in the shorter term. Even for a relatively short stay, in fact, this technology could be used to minimize an otherwise very expensive load of food and oxygen stock; with costs of a space launch approaching US$10,000 per pound, this could lead to substantial savings even for short missions spanning only a few days.

Sources: CELSS, Futron (PDF)

About the Author
Dario Borghino Dario studied software engineering at the Polytechnic University of Turin. When he isn't writing for Gizmag he is usually traveling the world on a whim, working on an AI-guided automated trading system, or chasing his dream to become the next European thumbwrestling champion.   All articles by Dario Borghino
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8 Comments

too bad they can't get men to the moon to eat the food

tampa florida
5th December, 2012 @ 08:22 am PST

This gives some hints as to where the Chinese space program may surpass the Soviet space program they are emulating.

The Soviets planned for a lunar landing similar to the Apollo program, but that program was abandoned due to engineering failures and the poor Soviet economy.

It will be interesting to see where the Chinese lunar program follows the Soviet model, and where they diverge from it.

Jon A.
5th December, 2012 @ 11:44 am PST

@tampa florida

"too bad they can't get men to the moon to eat the food"

Their spaceship you see in your rear view mirror is getting closer each time you glimpse at it.

thk
5th December, 2012 @ 03:42 pm PST

Time for a moon wok!

Hehe, I kill myself...

Jim Parker
5th December, 2012 @ 10:15 pm PST

Given the weight of the garden habitat it would probably not be cost effective for missions of less than six months but the fresh food would improve moral and be the testbed for building a true permanent presence in space.

re; tampa florida

The USofA went to the moon in the worst possible way we spent ludicrous sums of money brought back a few tons of samples and when we were done we did not have any additional space based infrastructure.

We would have been better off using lots of smaller rockets and building the lunar orbit transfer vehicle in space.

re; Jon A.

Given how poorly the (Absurdly poorly designed) shuttle performed it would be ludicrous for china to follow that example.

Slowburn
6th December, 2012 @ 04:33 am PST

The Russians did not land a man on the Moon, however they did land a Robot on the Moon , the Lunokhod series. I believe two of them made it all the way.

The Russians were more advanced in Robotics, and made a serious error in not developing that capability.It would have allowed them to land more often, do more research on Robotics and place them well ahead of the west in an area we all now recognise as a Prime area of technological development.

Facebook User
6th December, 2012 @ 10:55 am PST

There is a proven system for converting common desert sand into 3D printed objects using nothing but lens concentrated sun light this could be adapted to drones to create structures on the moon with the high intensity sun light available there and large quantities of dust to fuse. you could have a set of drones one making inter locking blocks one feeding it raw materials gathered while clearing and leveling a building site another using the blocks to build.

I would add niches in the blocks to eliminated scaffolding needs. Then one to spray on a sealing agent to the walls and ceilings then all you have to ship is doors ports and sealing agents and electronic gear, lab equipment compressors for the air locks water seeds and bacteria for plant growth Air of course you could have it near ready to walk in and live for the astronauts. The same thing can be done to Mars only there you can start terraforming the planet for an open air environment. we really need a system to nudge ice comets into an orbit or just let them impact Mars.

Joseph Mertens
6th December, 2012 @ 07:12 pm PST

So rather than settle for breaking the record of 3 days on the moon, China plans to move in and get the first in for a Bio Dome. How much knowledge to they actually have on coping with Weightless environments . At present the longest time in space for any person is 437.7 by Valeri Polyakov from Russia. The longest cumulative time in space is the International space station which is getting close to 14 years now and they are already growing foods on the space station. But a Bio dome on the moon would be Epic. The initial costs of setting that up, and making it survivable might see this becoming a very long term investment unless you use Martens 3d printer ID that sounds good.

Spriscilla the Queen of the Ocean
10th December, 2012 @ 07:13 pm PST
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