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66

Right now, almost 100% of existing research on growth in gravity fields is basically at 0g (ISS/Mir/Skylab/whatever) or 1g. There are a lot of questions of what happens at 1/6g or 2/3g? No good experiments to demonstrate. Thus the Chinese lander is testing 1/6th g. SpaceX is likely to brute force test 38% g when they get to Mars. It is entirely possible ...


26

The capsule and its seeds are stored on the Chang'e 4 lander. It protects the biosphere from the positive +/-200C degree temperature swings. They are basically experimenting to see how life evolves and survives in near zero gravity. Unlike the ISS where they essentially tested the same concept just in Zero Gravity. Learning this will better prepare humanity ...


21

Some of the rocks on Mars aren't too bad for growth of plants or bacteria. They contain a considerable amount of clay minerals (about 20%), and several other minerals which are considered as essential and sufficient for bacteria to survive, at least. Probable chlorinated salts, e.g. perchlorates, which are likely and wide-spread in Martian soil, don't ...


16

So far the studies that have been performed in orbit have shown that plants grow perfectly normal (shoots up, roots down--so to speak) in microgravity. They also produce healthy offspring which can grow new plants in orbit. Experiments have been performed on Arabidopsis and other Brassicaceae. Aboard the ISS a special “plant growth chamber” called Advanced ...


15

This is a remarkably interesting exchange. I would like to add a few concerns (as an engineer, I go straight for the problems)... Full culm bamboo is a remarkably inefficient product to transport and thus any use in space would require bamboo to be grown in space. On Earth, we consider bamboo inefficient if it is not grown within about 200 km of its end use....


15

The higher plants are less efficient, so the entity will probably be not a bush, but a jar of algae. 30-40 liters of Сhlorella suspension could provide for a gaseous exchange of a single person. Grishin Yu. I. "Artificial Space Ecosystems" Cosmonautics, Astronomy 7/1989


14

There are certain plants that are more efficient in removing and adding Oxygen to the surrounding environment, but the main disadvantage is that they need soil with comfortable acidity otherwise the roots of the plants would die. That prevents them from being used on other planets where the acidic contents in the soil is more (but there are a few exceptions)....


13

It depends on your definition of exploration missions. Talking about human space flight into low Earth orbit, yes, there have been plenty of plants and successful experiments involving growing plants in space. Some are still going on on-board the ISS. Astronauts also, intentionally or unintentionally, let stuff grow which is actually part of their food ...


13

Plants don't just need carbon dioxide; like most organisms, they need oxygen to survive as well. They can produce oxygen from carbon dioxide, but that doesn't help cells that aren't exposed to sunlight; if you put a plant in a very low-oxygen environment, it will die. There are organisms that can survive on little to no oxygen (e.g. cyanobacteria, which can ...


11

How different are Mars soil from Earth's soil? Mars has no soil. Soil has an organic component, which (so far as we know) is lacking in Mars regolith. Actually, the Viking probes may have found signs of organic compounds in the Martian soil, but even until today the results of the experiment are in dispute. Interestingly all Martian landers since, with the ...


9

We don't really know. A study from 2012 suggests that lichens and cyanobacteria could indeed survive the "obvious" perils of Mars, including radiation, low pressure, and temperatures dropping as low as $-50°\text{C}$. In 2012 the Planetary Society reports a two-stage experiment performed at the German Aerospace Center, in which (1) organisms were ...


9

Generally, without any external disturbance, cohesive forces of the materials in use will be sufficient to keep them together, since they all share the same inertial frame. But sure, to prevent soils from scattering around when moved around, worked with or perhaps due to air circulation, they can be contained in growing pots or similar containers that would ...


9

All life as we know it requires liquid water as a medium (a polar solvent) in which the chemistry of life can take place. Mars surface conditions pretty much preclude the existence of liquid water. The atmospheric pressure is at or below the triple point of water, meaning that water can only exist as ice or gas (vapor). Even though Martian soil probably ...


8

Despite the fact that on Earth, Nitrogen is the most abundant element in the atmosphere, plants do not get their nitrogen from the air - it is just too hard to get it. A plant would need to expend lots of energy to break the N2 bonds. Instead, they get all their nitrogen from the soil, where bacteria in the soil have already converted N2 to NH3 (nitrogen ...


8

Looking at the information on what plants were taken in to space, it appears that the criteria include: Size: initially small plants were taken. This makes sense from a weight perspective Well studied: the list of plants aligns well with those studied extensively in universities. Again, this makes sense - it may be easier to identify odd growth in a well ...


8

They did it for propaganda or pride mostly. What sprouted quickly died because it froze. They did not have a method to protect the biosphere from the temperature swings. This is what they expected and admit. The Chang'e-4 probe entered a "sleep mode" on Sunday as the first lunar night after the probe's landing fell. The temperature could drop as low as ...


7

In addition to the gravity, an important influence for plant growth is light (cf. Photoperiodism). So, in microgravity plants still "know" which direction to grow - leafs towards the light (for Photosynthesis), roots away from it, towards water/nutrients. As others pointed out, space experiments confirm that plants do grow in microgravity.


7

Mars' atmosphere scale height is, depending on who you ask, 10.8 to 11.1 km. Pressure at the bottom of Hellas Planitia: 1.16 kPa Earth sea level: 101.3 kPa Earth 6km altitude: ~50 kPa. So we need air pressure to increase by a factor of about 43; ln 43 = 3.76 scale heights -- so we need a trench about 41km deep. Start digging! This gets equivalent air ...


7

The announcement was first made by the vice principle of Chongqing University (the primary designer of the growth module) on the 15th of January and you can find the original article summary from their university website here (in Chinese of course). The first image is from the lunar module (the actual time the photo was taken was 7th January around 10am). ...


7

Perchlorate contamination is a problem on Earth. Essentially, there is a series of water treatments and bioremediation, the process of using biological systems to fix the problem. Here is a detailed summary of one effective approach. The short answer is this: Engineers know how to do this on Earth, and the Martian solution is likely to be an adaptation of ...


6

Yes. While Mars only receives about half of the light that Earth does, it doesn't have clouds or other similar items to deal with. Assuming you can have a dome that is very clear, you should have about 600 W/m^2, while the surface of Earth has 1000 w/m^2 (source). The site linked to has some great pictures, I'm not sure if I can use them here. Assuming ...


6

From "The Case for Mars", using Viking data, it can be shown that the soil is similar, although we don't know about the nitrogen content. Iron in particular is higher, Potassium is lower. They also contain smectite clays. Bottom line is, there are probably parts of Mars that have enough minerals to grow plants, and those things that are lacking could ...


6

Life may once have existed on Mars, which is largely why so much exploration of it is being done now. There is evidence of flowing water, which implies a warmer climate and thicker atmosphere. But that atmosphere was stripped away as the sun grew hotter, and now Mars is frozen. It doesn't have enough gravity or a magnetic field strong enough to hold in an ...


5

Allow me to give the obvious answer of spirulina. Here's a NASA report from 1988 on the subject of growing food during space missions. I don't know if it's particularly different from any other NASA report on the subject: http://ntrs.nasa.gov/search.jsp?R=19890016190 The abstract is unhelpful, but the entire introduction is highly relevant to your question,...


5

Roughly speaking Mars gets between 1/2 and 1/3 the light that Earth gets (depending on time of year) meaning you could probably grow plans that handle full shade on earth pretty well but most crop plants are more on the full sun side of things. Growing crop plants would probably require concentrated light if you were going to use natural light. LED grow ...


5

They ran a competition for an experiment to make use of spare capacity on the lander. This one was chosen, most likely for it's potential to cultivate interest in the mission.


4

Osmosis against a total pressure gradient is absolutely a 'thing'. Plants and animals exploit this and active transport to move fluids around and they can definitely create pressure gradients. However: We can already separate and compress gasses already. The thickness of the sheet of polymer needed to make this work would not survive any meaningful ...


3

You might be interested in Biosphere 2 or other Artificial ecosystems, which attempt to answer this. While the results were impressive closure experiments set world records in closed ecological systems The ecosystem was far from stable indefinitely. First attempt had unexpected interaction between atmosphere and the concrete: carbon dioxide was ...


3

Well it is not as easy as it seems, it needs a suitable environment to grow in. First of all it itself need some oxygen to grow. And you cannot just give oxygen to the plant directly, the oxygen would escape into the atmosphere.You need CO2. You need the right amount of sunlight. You need nutrient specific soil. You need bacteria to fix nitrogen into the ...


2

A group at MIT did a review of the Mars One proposal, and in the mode that grew its own food supplies found that they died 61 days in, because of too MUCH oxygen production by the plants! This is counter intuitive, but is related in fact to nitrogen, as opposed to oxygen. The plants produced oxygen, and to keep the atmosphere less reactive (I.e. Not catch ...


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