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ASK OCE — August 31, 2006 — Vol. 1, Issue 13

 

As NASA prepares for eventual manned missions to the Moon and Mars, a basic conundrum is how to provide the astronauts with enough food, water, and air for the multi-year mission to the Red Planet. Sending enough of these necessities along with the crews is a logistics challenge that has never been addressed before.

Missions to Mars will likely require an advanced system of biological life support in order to decrease the amount of food, water, and air launched from Earth. Scientists at the NASA-sponsored Haughton-Mars Project (HMP)’s Arthur Clarke Mars Greenhouse (ACMG) are developing a prototype of just such a system.

By cleaning the air and water for astronaut use and also providing food for the crews, these greenhouses may well play a critical role in a viable biological life support system. The ACMG, which began in 2002, is designed to operate autonomously, reducing the need for astronauts to tend the crops and manage the day-to-day functions of the facility. The greenhouse manages its own power, and has its own communications system for command and telemetry as well as a sophisticated data acquisition and control system for making measurements and maintaining the internal environment in the greenhouse.

The NASA Haughton-Mars Project and the greenhouse is an international interdisciplinary field research project located at Devon Island in the High Arctic. The surrounding terrain is seen as an ideal terrestrial analog for Mars, with similar environmental conditions, geological features, and biological attributes that partially mimic Martian conditions.

The ACMG was donated by SpaceRef Interactive, Inc., and established at the HMP Research Station with initial sponsorship support from NASA. The facility is currently managed and operated by the Mars Institute in partnership with the SETI Institute and Simon Fraser University.

In conjunction with its science program, the HMP supports an exploration program aimed at developing new technologies, strategies, human factors experience, and field-based operational know-how key to planning the future exploration of the Moon, Mars and other planets by robots and humans.

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