Space – the final frontier. Companies are inventing new ways to live – and thrive – in the vast blackness that surrounds us.
The Martian, a movie that came out in 2015, tells a story of a group of astronauts that are visiting Mars and had to leave in a hurry. One crew member was isolated after his crew thought he was dead. He returned to base and he made sustainable air, recycled water, and regrew his potato portions, all while trying to contact NASA to bring him home.
Parts of The Martian are quickly going from science fiction to science fact. Not only are companies like SpaceX making reusable rockets, but other companies are making ways to grow vegetables that can be eaten raw – like potatoes, radishes, peppers, and lettuce – in space.
Sierra Nevada Corp's and Orbitec's Madison operation are helping with NASA's Next Space Technology’s for Exploration Partnership program or NextS.T.E.P., to make an 'Astro Garden', and find ways to recycle water and regenerate oxygen for astronomical exploration. This made headlines in 2015 when astronauts ate the lettuce they grew in space. Eventually, the Madison employees will build a room-sized prototype and hopefully send it to validation flights in a couple of years, though the full model won't be ready until the 2020's.
While vegetables provides nourishment, they may also have a psychological benefit. Some scientists hope they will have a calming effect on the astronauts. The vegetables may be a metaphorical 'tie' to earth, no matter how far away they are. Plus, tending plants gives them something to do, to keep their minds off the fact of how far away they are from home.
Someday there may be a self-sufficient way to go to other planets, and companies like Sierra Nevada and Orbitec are trying to make that day come as soon as possible.
[Source: Wisconsin State Journal]