Planktonic food incubators for long-term space expeditions

Chemosynthesis rather than photosynthesis, for the reproduction of food in space.


Modern spacecraft life support systems do not allow to regenerate food. But deep space expedition of the future will require full autonomy. To date, the renewability of food is supposed to be obtained by the cultivation of plants, in special compartments or modules – “Space plantations” or “greenhouses”.


Massive space plantation bad match demands utmost ease and functionality. But photosynthesis of plants is not the only source of renewable biomass. Alternatively, it can be used “Chemosynthesis” bacteria feeding chemicals from the life support systems. Based on chemosynthesis compact and light food incubators can be constructed. For the cultivation of planktonic crustaceans that can serve as the basis of the diet of crews.


The principle of cultivating food organisms due chemosynthesis reduces weight manned stations for interplanetary missions and bases on other planets.


Commercialization of this technology on the ground, allows you to create new trends in the food industry. With use of natural gas or dry plant biomass feedstock. Reducing dependence on destroying the ecosystem of the soil processing.



The problem of renewable power sources in outer space.


Providing people with food, not the most difficult problem to be solved for the modern astronautics. In Earth station products can be delivered to the ground without much difficulty. The same can be said about manned missions to the moon, expected in the near term.


But with further development of astronautics, the beginning of long-term, long-term missions and the establishment of permanent bases on other planets, the problem of food sources dramatically worsen.


Nutrition is one of the priority needs for the crew members. But when removed from the space flights of the earth, with the land supply will be impossible or very difficult. If water and air are constantly renewed manned spacecraft life support systems. That the products is somewhat more complicated.


Direct chemical synthesis from raw food items as futuristic films. The machines which make food cubes or tablets of water and air, not possible. Although the chemical synthesis would be the easiest way to solve the power supply problem. But a full-fledged diet involves thousands of complex organic substances necessary for the synthesis of which the power of the pharmaceutical corporations. Make a compact and lightweight apparatus for the chemical synthesis of products, the problem not solved in the near future.


Resources for the sustenance of crewmembers in long interplanetary spaceflight and alien bases, should be renewable. When the colonization of other planets, forthcoming in the future, you need to make the most of extraterrestrial resources, is one of the fundamental conditions of space colonization.


Space greenhouses.

now accepted the resumption of food resources provides a biological method of reproduction by means of photosynthesis.

on request Images growing plants in space

The ships expected to grow plants and use a full rotation of organic matter from the simplest elements, to the final products, using light energy and photosynthesis of plants. Similarly, resumption of organic substances in the land biosphere. Due to the absorption of solar energy plants. And the circuit main nutrients that provide a continuous increase in biomass.


Photosynthesis can ensure full autonomy life support systems. But it does have its drawbacks and limitations. The efficiency of photosynthesis is very low, only one percent. Plant growth is a slow process for growing plants in “Space plantations’ need a large area. Globally, it does not matter, but in spaceships space is limited and you need to use energy as efficiently as possible.

Pictures of growing plants in orbit

Space plantations may occupy a space comparable to the habitable modules for crews which they are intended. Standard modern Russian-made module weighs about 20 tonnes and has an internal area – 80 square meters. To ensure the products a person needs an area of ​​about 25 square meters. Usable area “hothouse module” Space plantations can be increased due to the internal structures of up to 100, 125 square meters. Then space plantation will feed 4, 5, people, but still edible weight of the module in terms of crew members will not be less than 4 tons. In terms of hard dimensionally mass deficit spacecraft, optional appendage to considerable life-support system. Weight of 4 tons corresponds stock sublimated and canned products 10, 18 years. For interplanetary missions will require more and more greenhouse protection modules from radiation, which is comparable with the weight of the module weight.


If the mass of the space plantation, at least a ten-year supply of food, the question arises whether worth powder and shot? Create a heavy, fully autonomous life support systems, or simply to provide long-term supply of food the crew?


In the near future are not scheduled flights lasting more than a few years, so the question of the appropriateness of space plantation is no longer relevant. Plantations can justify itself only on expeditions for decades duration or virtually indefinite regular expeditions to other planets. Designed for further colonization.


Nevertheless, the idea of ​​a fully autonomous life support systems is very tempting. Since humanity is at this stage of the technical capacity to create permanent bases on other planets. If the problem will be solved with an autonomous life support and minimized from the land supply needs. You can create permanent bases on other planets at a reasonable cost.


Ideally, the weight of the renewable power sources should not exceed a ton in terms of rights. And occupy the space no more than a few cubic meters of such dimensionally mass properties would allow to place the power regeneration system directly into inhabited units, making them an integral part of life support systems. Get these parameters using photosynthesis is unlikely, even if you use high-yield plants. Such as, for example, unicellular algae, also porridge of algae is unlikely to be complete, the main, source of food and will be enjoyed by astronauts.



Food incubators, operating on the principle of chemosynthesis and simple food chains.


But the cultivation of food organisms need not necessarily be based on photosynthesis. For this purpose, you can use the so-called – “Chemosynthesis” body’s absorption of simple chemicals, using their energy for the growth of biomass.


Initial nutrients such as hydrogen, methane or alcohol, can be easily renewed life support systems. As well as oxygen for breathing.


Vegetable or animal feed capable of hydrogen or methane does not exist, only by bacteria can be cultured by chemosynthesis. A biomass of bacteria is not suitable for human consumption. But high productivity chemo synthesis allows to cultivate more complex organisms with simple food chains. Source nutrient substrate can be absorbed by the bacteria, the bacteria biomass can serve as nutrient substrate for the simplest, single-celled microorganisms. Easy-to-turn for crustaceans. A small crustaceans and shrimp is a complete food capable serve as the basis of the diet. Some species of planktonic crustaceans may harbor bacteria that can ultimately simplify the food chain. If you manage to pick up a culture of bacteria capable of synthesizing all the necessary nutrients.


When the cultivation of food organisms in several stages, most of the energy will be spent on the maintenance of their metabolic processes, rather than accumulate in the form of final biomass. But biological efficiency and productivity of this method is still ten times higher than that during growth of green plants. microorganism growth rate under optimal conditions is very large, their biomass can be doubled repeatedly during the day.

Pictures of black smokers

The effectiveness of micro ecosystems based on chemosynthesis demonstrate small natural community. Formed around the underwater geysers, so-called – “black smokers.” Bacterial colonies absorbing hydrogen sulphide dissolved in water geysers spewing produce a primary biomass serving as food for many polyps, worms, crustaceans and fish schools surrounding these oases deep life.


Pictures of cow digestion bacteria

There are also more mundane examples of high productivity of microorganisms. Cow that feeds on grass alone can not digest fiber, a cow actually “feed” a few kilograms of bacteria and ciliates, living in her stomach.

Crustaceans, the final link in the food chain, are growing at lightning speed, but still fast enough.


Planktonic crustaceans that feed on microorganisms, double their biomass in a few days. Mass crustaceans cultured in 6, 10 kg can surely “Feed” one person.

Pictures of plankton crustaceans

When such biochemical productivity food incubator weighing several hundred kilograms and a volume of 1 – 3 cubic meters, may provide a crew member. Which is well within acceptable parameters dimensionally massive life-support systems for manned modules.


Disadvantages “shrimp hatchery” in that he may only give shrimp paste. Monotonous protein foods, but people need a varied diet and more adapted to a predominantly carbohydrate foods. The meat of crustaceans, although the protein, but light enough food, so as not to cause digestive problems. As carbohydrate source may be cultured simplest prone to accumulation “Glycogen” close vegetable starch analog.


For a change, it is possible for additional incubators to grow mushrooms, a fast-growing small fish and small animals feed on shrimp paste. The compact “micro farms”, a fast-growing herbs can be grown to be “vitamin supplement” to the basic diet. You do not need a separate module for cereals for the cultivation of greenery. It will be quite a few “Micro beds”, comparable in size to the solarium.


Thus, cultivation of food organisms through the use of simple chemosynthetic bacteria and food chains, crews can provide adequate nutrition. Without going beyond the limitations of standard mass dimensionally habitable modules.


The proposed method of resuming food resources can reduce the cost of long-distance manned expeditions, allowing you to create virtually autonomous space settlements, only a few standard modules.



The possibilities of using the principles of chemosynthesis and simple food chains in the earth’s food industry.


The technology of cultivation of food organisms due chemosynthesis can be used not only in space but also on Earth.


Commercialization of this trend in the industry can give a new direction in the food industry. Cultivation food industry method without extensive agricultural land more profitable in today’s big cities and more gentle to the surrounding environment in many ways.


Now fish farms used the cultivation of crustaceans, daphnia or Moin, feeding the fish, using as an initial substrate dry grass, manure, and yeast. But the cultivation of microorganisms in sterile containers methane can give a pure culture and higher biomass growth. Cultivation planktonic crustaceans on microorganisms for the production of “shrimp paste” may have a considerably higher productivity than traditional breeding of fish.


Industrial cultivation of crustaceans, along with the cultivation of fast-growing animals and herbs hydroponically. By analogy with the advanced space food systems. It would constitute a significant part of the food industry, the future of cities.



Simple food chain natural food substrate on a farm.


In rural areas, there is an abundant natural resource – “vegetable fibers”, which constitutes the main part of the dry biomass of plants. Which can also serve as a substrate for the cultivation of food organisms. After the food chain, beginning with the bacteria.


But the equipment with special containers are too expensive and complicated to maintain agriculture. In agriculture, you can use another method of cultivation of organisms in the natural substrate. Having a close analogy to the natural decomposition of dry leaves and grass, which is the basis of plant compost mass absorbed by microorganisms.


“Compost farming technology” or – “Complex method of cultivation of mushrooms and poultry cellulosic substrate” mushroom cultivation requires consistent and earthworms on the substrate from the dry grass, wood waste or coniferous forest litter.


HoTs bacteria feed on cellulose, are “heterotrophic” biomass feed instead chemicals as “Hemoaftotrofy” producing biomass of absorbed chemicals. In the method of cultivation of food organisms compost is used the same principle as ordinary food chains starting with bacteria, and in “plankton incubators.” The only difference is that it is close to natural analogues, and therefore does not require special equipment.


Compost farming technology provides consistent cultivation of fungi and worms on the decaying substrate – compost. The worm then serve as food for the birds, and the remnants of compost – “Biohumus” is used as a fertilizer.

Pictures of MushroomThe substrate degradable by bacteria, contains sugar, a small concentration, resulting in the cleavage of cellulose digestive enzymes and bacteria is a nutrient medium for fungi.

Pictures of earthworms

Once removed from the substrate more fungi of crops, a substrate with a high content of bacteria and fungal mycelial residues is qualitative growth medium worms, due to the high content of protein.

Pictures of Poultry

When the substrate is completely depleted, worms, birds peck. Residues substrate composed predominantly of soil-forming “humus” component quality organic fertilizer.


Technology cultivation of fungi on the plant substrate and worms for humus used in the conventional agricultural technology. But offers integrated technology is not traditional, it has a number of specific features and benefits. High-impact, due to the almost total use of the substrate nutrients. Virtually waste-free, as all manufactured products, mushrooms, poultry, humus, have a commercial value.


Integrated compost technology to improve performance and profitability of traditional agriculture. And also to develop farming without the traditional cultivation of the land. Using natural sources of the substrate, such as wild reeds, shrubs, coniferous forest litter or wood processing waste. This farming method is particularly gentle to the environment, as it allows you to use the resources of the natural ecosystem, without destroying it.



Cultivation food organisms using food chains beginning of bacteria growing on a nutrient substrate, may be used in outer space and on earth.


In space, it provides a light and compact food resource recovery system, the presence of which may facilitate the development of space exploration and colonization of nearby planets to accelerate. On the ground, create new trends in the food industry that can reduce dependence on the traditional cultivation of land for growing plants.


Commercial food technologies that do not depend on an agriculture can feed a growing world population without compromising the ecosystem. In addition they provide a safety net in the event of a global catastrophe. In the case of abrupt climate change, nuclear, asteroid or volcanic winter, traditional, agricultural resources will be destroyed. But the sources of methane and dry plant biomass will remain virtually undamaged.


This is one of many examples of how the ideas that arise in the process of integrating people into space, can impart a new quality to the development of technology and people’s living space.


Nikolay Agapov.

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