The MarsOasis™ cultivation system is a versatile, autonomous, environmentally controlled growth chamber for food provision on the Martian surface. MarsOasis™ integrates a wealth of prior research and Mars growth chamber concepts into a complete system design and operational prototype. MarsOasis™ includes several innovative features relative to the state of the art space growth chambers. It can operate on the Mars surface or inside of a habitat. The growth volume maximizes growth area and supports a variety of crop sizes, from seeding through harvest. It utilizes in-situ CO2 from the Mars atmosphere. Hybrid lighting takes advantage of natural sunlight during warmer periods, and supplemental LEDs during extreme cold, low light, or indoor operation. Recirculating hydroponics and humidity recycling minimize water loss. The structure also supports a variety of hydroponic nutrient delivery methods, depending on crop needs. The growth chamber uses solar power when outside, with deployable solar panels that stow during dust storms or at night. It can also use power from the habitat or other external sources. The growth chamber is mobile, so that the crew can easily relocate it. Autonomous environmental control manages crop conditions reducing crew time for operation. Finally, remote teleoperation allows pre-deployment, prior to crew arrival. This project directly addresses the NASA STTR technology area T7.02 “Space Exploration Plant Growth” and will be a major step towards closed-loop, sustainable living systems for space exploration. This collaborative effort between Space Lab Technologies, LLC and the Bioastronautics research group from the CU Boulder Smead Aerospace Engineering Sciences Department combines conceptual design, modeling & analysis, experimentation, and prototyping to demonstrate feasibility and prepare for future development of a demonstration unit.
MarsOasis™ provides fresh food to spacecraft crew on the Martian surface. The membrane contactor design allows highly selective CO2 capture and regenerable CO2 control in growth chambers, space habitats, or even spacesuits. The robotic harvesting arm can be used in plant chambers or other glove box applications. Finally, the deployable dome material might be used in a variety of applications including spacecraft greenhouses, habitat plumbing systems, or non-load bearing habitat structures.
MarsOasis™ could enable populations in water and nutrient scarce regions to grow fresh vegetables. A simplified version may be attractive in urban areas as year-round roof-top gardens. The sensor suite and control software could improve yield and reduce costs in horticulture facilities. Finally, the membrane contactor design could scrub CO2 from power plants and confined atmospheres (e.g. submarines) more efficiently and at a lower cost than traditional systems.