The NASA partner German research center DLR studies the possibility of growing plants in the space with help of urine as a supply of the nutrients. And the substance used in these experiments is synthetic urine, since it is more convenient in terms of hygiene, ease of use and storage etc.
Reaching Mars and exploring it as a prospective habitable planet is something that the leading space agencies of the world are working upon, however much needs to be done yet. The main problem here is resupply, inasmuch as the population in Mars will depend on water, oxygen and food. But sending supply missions is not the best option, because they are expensive and take years. That is why NASA, which is already planning to send people to Mars in 2030s, is exploring the possibility of making this mission self-sufficient.
Growing food right on Mars is the most obvious solution in this situation and NASA in cooperation with DLS is preparing to test this possibility very soon. Next year these agencies plan to launch two greenhouse stations in space to understand better the impact of extraterrestrial gravity on plant growth. The mission will take one year and will consist of two parts. During the first 6-month period the satellite with greenhouses will simulate the gravity of earth’s moon, and in the second part it will accelerate its rotation to copy the gravity of Mars.
What Is Urine For?
To grow food, nutrients are prerequisite, and the urine of future Mars inhabitants can be used to get them. The researchers will send synthetic urine to space greenhouses to try growing plants with help of nutrients from it. Bacteria will be used to help break down the components of urine: ammonia into nitrites and further to nitrates, which are known as the perfect fertilisers for plants. A single celled alga Euglena Gracilis will be used to prevent the formation of harmful ammonia build-up.
The supply of these nutrients will be further regulated with the help of a microchip, which contains capillary electrophoresis (CE) system. This system is intelligent enough to gauge the need of plants in nutrients based on their growth stage and to fertilize them accordingly.
If the aforementioned research and development will succeed, Mars inhabitants will be able to grow plants and supply themselves with natural food using their own urine.