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spacepunk
2004-Dec-24, 03:30 PM
There seems to be a lot of similar and related information on this topic among the many diverse forums at UT, but I thought that I would begin this discussion to gather some of the best ideas that have been mentionned so far to this location. If you think that having this forum is folly because your food comes from supermarkets and not from farms, then this forum is not for you.

Some points for discussion, not necessarily in any order:

1) Small scale terraforming projects such as atrium style dwellings or greenhouses have a certain cost associated with transporting and constructing the building materials.

2) The variety of crops that can be grown successfully to produce large volumes of producce. There are at least a dozen crop plants that grow well in space of which tomatoes are the most promising. Some of the others are common species known as corn, wheat, potatoes, and salad greens. One observation is that the current research may be somewhat one-dimensional because it concentrates on Quaternary atmospheric conditions of the hydroponic mediums. The research could include some experiments in atmospheric conditions different than today. The growing of fern fronds, or else plants that would provide shade or micronutrients to benefit harvestable plants, acting in symbiotic intermediary relationships with one another in atmospheric conditions different than today. Also to be discussed is the ability to withstand radiation exposure: plants growing in regions on Earth of natural radioactivity such as the Great Slave Lake area may shed some useful information for the study of hydroponics in space, or of viable farms on Mars.

3) Machinery, or robots may be of use in maintaning/harvesting the crops.

4) Animal life. On Earth bumble bees are almost 100% employed in greenhouse tomato production. Are they able to fly in zero-G, or low gravity greenhouse environments on Mars? The study of astrobiology may play a role in observing the limits to which bacterial colonies can be manipulated to grow medicines or foods (such as penicillin, mint, etc.).

5) Micronutrients, soil requirements, etc. Can the soil on Mars support life or would it be in need of earthworms and nematodes to assist crop production? What about the dust material found in comets with the unique amino acids found in their soils?

6) Would we recongnize indigenous harvestable lifeforms on other planets if we found them?!

7) Perhaps there are other considerations to be presented on this the topic of "astro-agronomy". Survival of the human race in the space age will depend on continuing efforts to find innovative ways to feed ourselves.

ChromeStar
2004-Dec-25, 09:23 AM
Hi spacepunk

Nice topic ;) :D

i just wanted to add an idea. for those of you who don't watch startrek, there is a device in there time called a replicator, it builds food or drink atom by atom.

if such a technology was developed it would eliminate the need for farms because waste could be turned into food by assembly rather then natural processes making things faster and eliminating need for huge amounts of space, money and hardware to build and run farms.

A Few Questions:

How do you think this would be done?

By when do you think it could be doen?

http://www.terrace.qld.edu.au/moo/startrek/replicator.jpg

GOURDHEAD
2004-Dec-27, 01:12 PM
Let's maintain this list by having each modifier of the list copy the complete list and add items to include her ideas. Only the one who introduced the idea should delete it after being convinced that it no loner applies. Maintaining the food supply of our spacefaring neighbors is of paramount importance.

1) Small scale terraforming projects such as atrium style dwellings or greenhouses have a certain cost associated with transporting and constructing the building materials.

2) The variety of crops that can be grown successfully to produce large volumes of producce. There are at least a dozen crop plants that grow well in space of which tomatoes are the most promising. Some of the others are common species known as corn, wheat, potatoes, and salad greens. One observation is that the current research may be somewhat one-dimensional because it concentrates on Quaternary atmospheric conditions of the hydroponic mediums. The research could include some experiments in atmospheric conditions different than today. The growing of fern fronds, or else plants that would provide shade or micronutrients to benefit harvestable plants, acting in symbiotic intermediary relationships with one another in atmospheric conditions different than today. Also to be discussed is the ability to withstand radiation exposure: plants growing in regions on Earth of natural radioactivity such as the Great Slave Lake area may shed some useful information for the study of hydroponics in space, or of viable farms on Mars.

3) Machinery, or robots may be of use in maintaning/harvesting the crops.

4) Animal life. On Earth bumble bees are almost 100% employed in greenhouse tomato production. Are they able to fly in zero-G, or low gravity greenhouse environments on Mars? The study of astrobiology may play a role in observing the limits to which bacterial colonies can be manipulated to grow medicines or foods (such as penicillin, mint, etc.).

5) Micronutrients, soil requirements, etc. Can the soil on Mars support life or would it be in need of earthworms and nematodes to assist crop production? What about the dust material found in comets with the unique amino acids found in their soils?

6) Would we recongnize indigenous harvestable lifeforms on other planets if we found them?!

7) Perhaps there are other considerations to be presented on this the topic of "astro-agronomy". Survival of the human race in the space age will depend on continuing efforts to find innovative ways to feed ourselves.

8) Focus the efforts of genetic engineering to:
Develop microbial agents to directly produce "palatable" edibles.
Modifiy plants that depend on insects for polination to reduce such dependencies.
Select a set of plants that can be modified to supply a balanced set of nutrients.
Develop reversible miniturization of food animals for transportation/colonization.

9) Develop safe fungicides, anti-bacterial agents, anti-viral agents, and sanitation regimes to maintain the health of the food production areas.


How do you think this (replicator techology) would be done? By when do you think it could be done? Forget it.

ChromeStar
2004-Dec-27, 07:50 PM
Hi Groundhead

Why, do you disagree with the idea?

eburacum45
2004-Dec-27, 09:28 PM
Replicator technology as such would be ridiculously inefficient; it would take quadrillions of bits of information to replicate food to sufficient fidelity that it would not taste like garbage.

No, I have a better idea, based on speculative medical technology from a few years back- the tissue printer.

Imagine an inkjet printer which can be programmed to deposit cells of tissues in three dimensional shapes; this has been seriously proposed as a way of growing new organs for transplant, obviously with highly sophisticated printing equipment (not yet invented)...
After a few days or weeks the organ knits together and is ready for transplant.


Now imagine the same equipment growing joints of meat and rashers of bacon; even growing vegetables if necessary. In a nutrient bath this system could produce raw food to be cooked in the normal fashion.

eburacum45
2004-Dec-28, 02:45 PM
And if you have not heard of this already, here is a link to the sort
of thing I am talking about;
http://www.pcworld.com/news/article/0,aid,...d,118815,00.asp (http://www.pcworld.com/news/article/0,aid,118815,00.asp)

GOURDHEAD
2004-Dec-29, 01:22 AM
Why, do you disagree with the idea? It's not that I disagre with the idea; I don't think it can be done efficiently, if at all. Quantum effects being as they are, including uncontrolable; the likelihood of getting a procuct out of the replicator, that is safe to eat, is vanishingly small.

astromark
2004-Dec-30, 06:28 AM
All though I agree with you, Its worth mentioning here that a great deal of our discoveries or inventions have come from compleatly unrealated reserch. samples of this are the air conditioner, which came from the fridge which came from a heat pump. all by stumbling around in the dark. History is full of this sort of thing. Have a little more confidance. We might be able to replicate food that tasts just like you would want it to. We can irradiat food to eliminate backterea. we can geneticly enginer plants to be what they were not.I would think its only time that stands between us and replicating food and other items. While we are at it lets engage the idea of transporters.... no lets not. The thought of scrambling my brain any more is alarming.

eburacum45
2004-Dec-30, 07:39 PM
If we are serious about living in the outer solar system, we will need to grow food out there, in the dimly lit outer reaches. We could construct vast mirrors to collect sunlight for crops, or grow them in closed habitats using sunlamps powered by fusion or magnetic energy collection.
I have made a 3d model of a closed cylindrical habitat;
here is the image
http://tinypic.com/14pd92

this habitat collects energy from the magnetic field of a gas giant
such as Jupiter, and has a cylindrical landscape inside like Arthur
Clarke's Rama or like one of Peter Hamilton's Edenist orbital
habitats, lit by sunlamps or sunstrips;

there ain't no such thing as a free lunch, of course, and habitats
like this have to recieve periodical orbital boosts or they fall
into the gas giant through magnetic friction. But the bigger they are, the more energy they can collect before reorbiting.


I think a lot of outer solar system food will be derived from genetically tailored algae grown in vats, which probably won't even need centrifugal gravity or very bright light to thrive.

GOURDHEAD
2004-Dec-31, 01:56 PM
We can beam energy from near the sun, say inside Mercury's orbit, to support veggies and steak factories out into and beyond where the Oort cloud is thought to be. I'm thinking 10^18 watt units delivering 10^17 watts over 5 light year distances. If this be true, we can live in suitably constructed cocoons all the way to Alpha Centauri.

eburacum45
2005-Jan-01, 10:53 AM
Good thinking! I call these rays of collimated sunlight 'sunbeams', by the way;

however they will need to be remarkably coherent to reach distant Oort objects.

Many descriptions of rotating habitats show the lghting strip as being suspended in the centre of the habitat; this would make maintenance of the sunstrip difficult, and a simpler arrangement could be adopted (as here);
http://tinypic.com/1593wy

spacepunk
2005-Jan-01, 06:47 PM
Some interesting ideas posted. Looks like the "Replicator" won't be on the market for a few years yet, but the 10-cup coffee maker will do just fine for now. Here's a redesigned discussion list with websites to be added ... some have been "borrowed" from other postings/forums at UT

1) Small scale terraforming, creation of micro-environments
http://www.geocities.com/alt_cosmos/
http://tinypic.com/1593wy
http://tinypic.com/14pd92

2) Variety of crops/plants

3) Variety of animals

4) Variety of yeasts, fungi

5) Variety of bacteria (study of astrobiology)

6) Machinery and robots
http://www.pcworld.com/news/article/0,aid,...d,118815,00.asp (http://www.pcworld.com/news/article/0,aid,118815,00.asp)

7) Quality of soils, micronutrients, hydroponic mediums

8) Harvesting indigenous (alien) lifeforms

9) Genetic engineering of lifeforms

10) Proper sanitation techniques

11) Energy sources

12) Paleo-biologists/botanists to study what lifeforms may be promising

12) Other .............

These concepts will tend to overlap. For instance, some mushroom farms on Earth cultivate this high protein food in near-zero O2, high CO2 environments with the technicians wearing oxygen masks (sounds non-Quaternary atmosphere to me). The first few bio-spheres on Mars could just be simple inflatable dwellings that are initially filled with Mars' own CO2 atmosphere via the use of air compressors. After many successive generations of O2 producing plants there might be enough air pressure with breathable air for humans to breathe unassisted --- in that containment area. I don't know if astronauts can survive on eating just mushrooms, but all new greenhouses on Mars could start with an otherwise toxic atmosphere and progress to one favored by humans.

There are several bathyl oceanic life communities on Earth that make use of chemo-respiration and/or thermo-respiration. Tube worms to lobster-like animals that feed off bacteria that eat at the sulphur, or iron, or other chemicals spewed from hydrothermal vents. Presumably one could create underground brine cisterns on Mars to cultivate bacterial slime masses, or algeal mats for consumption by another lifeform that could be eaten by humans. Non-sulphuros brine would be best though unless one likes the smell of rotten eggs when eating. On moons (of Jupiter or saturn) which are surface frozen waterworlds there may be simple unevolved indigenous bacterial life. Perhaps it could be harvested by the introduction of bacteria eating organisms from Earth, to be eaten by introduced fish, to be eaten by people. Some ethical questions to sort out though, and certainly any space food coming back to Earth would want to be sufficiently irradiated so as not to introduce alien lifeforms to Earth!

Energy sources: data on methane sources on Mars (being either of biological or geochemical origin) could be examined by geological experts from the oil companies to see if there is enough volume to justify methane collection as a fuel for either propulsion or heat generation for colonists. Is magnetic energy collection from Jupiter possible by dangling cables down into its atmosphere ... ?

eburacum45
2005-Jan-01, 09:26 PM
Generation of magnetic power from Jupiter could take many forms, but any extraction of power takes energy out of the system;
this usually means your power collection vessel will gradualy lose orbital velocity and enter the gas giant's atmosphere.
One way to avoid that is to anchor your power generator on one of the inner moons (ike Amalthea);
you will still slow the moon down, but it is so massive you would hardly make any difference.

filrabat
2005-Jan-06, 12:22 PM
What about the lack of an ozone layer or Van Allen belt/magnetic field on the terrestrial planets and moons?

It's probably simple to make a greenhouse that filters out the UV in greenhouses so that the amount of UV is compatible to that which reaches earth's surface.

But what about the solar winds and powerful cosmic rays? Ozone doesn't filter out charged particles that can fry us. Seems to me that even in a fully oxygenated Martian atmosphere (with upper atmosphere ozone, of course), the lack of a magnetic field (and hence lack of radiation belts) to deflect all that ionizing radiation will make Mars perpetually hostile for humans.

Any ideas as to overcome that , unless we want to live perpetuall

eburacum45
2005-Jan-11, 07:53 PM
I've made a model of an agricultural space station, adapted from Gerard O'Neill's island three design;
the mirror cone can be extended and modified in shape in order to collect more light- this would enable crops to be grown in
Jupiter orbit and beyond.

http://tinypic.com/1825o6

spacepunk
2005-Jan-16, 08:48 PM
Having an internet search on "Gerard O'Neill's island three design" gives webpages from hordes of armchair space engineers, but also credible information from respectable sources!

Would anyone like to comment on what you think would be the minimum /maximum sizes for the viability of space stations? Are these or any structures self-sufficient for (most) energy requirements and would they necessarily have a permanent human presence, or just at harvesting intervals? Any proposed stats on dimensions, wattage, biomass capacity, population ...
http://tinypic.com/1825o6


What about the lack of an ozone layer or Van Allen belt/magnetic field on the terrestrial planets and moons?

It's probably simple to make a greenhouse that filters out the UV in greenhouses so that the amount of UV is compatible to that which reaches earth's surface.

But what about the solar winds and powerful cosmic rays?

There is a static/remnant magnetic field on Mars, most prominent at the South Pole. Its strength at the surface probably compares to that as would be found by the ISS when it drifts through the Earth's Van Allen's belts (haven't found the actual stats that state this) Lead-containing glass could aid the filtering of undesirable solar/cosmic radiation into greenhouses.

Some interesting sites:

health issues in space (http://www.islandone.org/Settlements/BoneDemineralization.html)
methane on mars (http://www.astrobio.net/news/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=1365&mode=thread&order=0&thold=0)
radiation shield (http://www.space.com/businesstechnology/lunarshield_techwed_050112.html)
Mars magnetic field (http://www-ssc.igpp.ucla.edu/personnel/russell/papers/mars_mag/)

eburacum45
2005-Jan-17, 12:28 AM
The answer is that you make them as big as you can; it was demonstrated by the failure of the Biosphere Two experiment that creating a small self contained ecosystem is very difficult. What should be remembered is that the atmoshere of Earth is a couple of magnitudes bigger than the biosphere in mass; so it will stay pretty much the same in the short term when the biosphere stops producing oxygen, which is why we don't asphyxiate in winter.
You need a big artificial biosphere to cut down the amount of biosphere management you need to do to avoid killing off all your food crops.

GOURDHEAD
2005-Jan-17, 02:06 PM
so it will stay pretty much the same in the short term when the biosphere stops producing oxygen, which is why we don't asphyxiate in winter. A huge portion of the Earth's biosphere is actively producing molecular oxygen throughout the year. I agree that the massiveness of the biosphere is a strong plus. We will have to get by on a much smaller scale and that will require more detailed monitoring and corrective measures being taken in a timely manner. We can do it!!

Sphinx
2005-Jan-17, 08:40 PM
I don't like the idea of 3-4 years worth of ecological advancement within the biosphere being at risk of complete failure due to a sudden computer malfunction that we, here on earth, are not able to fix in time. It seems risky that at any moment during the entire project that their wouldn't be some kind of safe guard against this that would atleast dampen the horrid thought of all that progress and money lost by one simple event.

I'd like this concern addressed and not just with a possible martian biosphere but with any Astroagronomy project. People's lives would most certainly depend on these structures for their very survival so their integrity/durability would be of vital importance.

GOURDHEAD
2005-Jan-18, 12:59 AM
I'd like this concern addressed and not just with a possible martian biosphere but with any Astroagronomy project. People's lives would most certainly depend on these structures for their very survival so their integrity/durability would be of vital importance. Me too. It will be addressed by qualification testing biospheres here on Earth before using one on the exploratory site. Redundant sensors and rigorous monitoring regimes will be used and the humans will be double and triple checking the vital aspects of the system in compliance with a rigid schedule. Mars colonization and the colonization of any off Earth site will require eternal vigilance. We can do it!!!

It will be worth the extra expense to qualification test the biosphere to be used off Earth inside one designed to replicate the site atmosphere and as many pertinent conditions as can be duplicated here on Earth.

Sphinx
2005-Jan-18, 02:26 AM
Correct me if I am wrong here. I know they consider Arizona to be topographically similar to Mars and Antarctica temperately similar but how do we simulate very large biosphere's within an oxygen depleted environment that is both temperately and topographically similar to Mars here on Earth? I don't know if this discussion of "the challenges of testing a martian biosphere" sways too far off topic from Astroagronomy.

damienpaul
2005-Jan-18, 12:06 PM
just add in an athlete's dirty sock drawer...that'd be pretty anaerobic

GOURDHEAD
2005-Jan-18, 03:28 PM
Correct me if I am wrong here. I know they consider Arizona to be topographically similar to Mars and Antarctica temperately similar but how do we simulate very large biosphere's within an oxygen depleted environment that is both temperately and topographically similar to Mars here on Earth? I don't know if this discussion of "the challenges of testing a martian biosphere" sways too far off topic from Astroagronomy. I wouldn't say you're wrong, but you may be skating on the extremely thin ice covering the sea of safety. Before placing humans on extended stays on Mars or any other site, we need to do what we can to assure they can "live and have their comfortable being" within relatively safe environments and conditions. An important component of this is to have the ability to produce food for the inhabitants in a reliable and controlled system, i.e., successful astroagronomy.

The most economical way to do this may be to replicate the conditions on a site in Antarctica....except for sites emulating Venus.

spacepunk
2005-Jan-18, 05:58 PM
Correct me if I am wrong here. I know they consider Arizona to be topographically similar to Mars and Antarctica temperately similar but how do we simulate very large biosphere's within an oxygen depleted environment that is both temperately and topographically similar to Mars here on Earth? I don't know if this discussion of "the challenges of testing a martian biosphere" sways too far off topic from Astroagronomy

This forum was expected to go in a few different directions, all the comments so far have some relevance. The first astronauts were trained at places such as Sudbury where the terrain was remarkably similar to expected conditions on the moon.


The most economical way to do this may be to replicate the conditions on a site in Antarctica....except for sites emulating Venus

Excellent observation. Not only would the efficacy of biosphere design and construction materials be "beta" tested, this could be a mandatory training camp for the first colonists or scientists going to the (Mars/Moon / asteroids) space stations.

There was another thread at UT that mentionned some of the practical implications of small scale transparent "Dyson spheres" so as to create a micro-environment, or locked-in atmosphere. Re-inforced glass, or balloon-like material could envelope an asteroid or space station. Yet there were size limitations due to gravity because the mere weight of one too large would collapse on the asteroid. I think the discussion went on to say that to envelope an entire planet like Mars would exceed the upper size limit ........... if I find it again I'll post the link here, unless someone else is able to elaborate .......

spacepunk
2005-Jan-19, 04:46 PM
Couldn't locate the UT forum, but here's a site that talks about small scale Dyson spheres

ringworlds, bubbleworlds, math data etc (http://www.nada.kth.se/~asa/dysonFAQ.html#OTHER)

Duane
2005-Jan-20, 12:49 AM
There is already several sites where they are doing experiments that simulate Mars-like conditions (Mars on Earth (http://www.arctic-mars.org/), Mars Desert Research Station (http://www.marssociety.org/mdrs/index.asp) for eg) and Tom2Mars has a number of ideas for complexes that might work. I especially like the Devon Island project (Mars on Earth linked above) which is placed in one of the most inhospitable regions on Earth and is the one that is probably the closest to what Mars is actually like that is available on this planet.

I do certainly agree though, if we can;t feed the people who go to a place like Mars, there won't be anyone going.

spacepunk
2005-Jan-21, 02:26 AM
There is already several sites where they are doing experiments that simulate Mars-like conditions

if we can;t feed the people who go to a place like Mars, there won't be anyone going
It seems that so far these guys have become experts at growing lettuce only ....... :lol:

spacepunk
2005-Jan-21, 02:43 AM
I have read somewhere about mining a comet, and possibly having a settlement there

One could construct a dyson sphere to contain the effluent of a comet's gases for harvest as a fuel source, or supply of unique gases. The first few trials of this would have to be on nearly spent comets so as try out the strength of the construction material of the sphere. Too much gas pressure when the comet nears the sun would compromise the strength, and there would be too much unpredictability with the nature of any other type of comet, at least until more is known about them.

Eventually when enough is known about the composition of a particular comet you could have a space station in tow to feed off its contents.

spacepunk
2005-Jan-24, 03:56 PM
Doing some searches on the concepts of comet use/feeding/harvest could lead one to begin a separate forum on comets.

Harvestable materials from most known comets could include the dust on their surfaces. It may in each case be unique to the comet studied, but would sometimes be organic in nature. This could possibly be used as a substrate medium in space greenhouses such as "Gerard O'Neill's island three design", because it would eliminate the need and added cost of transporting dirt from earth into space. Gases on the comet might be useful for space travel/fuel.

Some debatable theories arise from the presence of indigenous life, latent or active, and if comets act as carriers of "germs" throughout the solar system. Regardless the point that could be exponded on is that comets could be manipulated to carry on-board greenhouses, or (bathyl) chemo/thermo respiratory lifeforms whose biomass increases over time. The product would be harvested as feed for intermediary organisms, or directly eaten by humans. Time the raising of the internal/overall temperature of the comet on its flyby past the sun to that necessary for initiating growth conditions to desired specifications. Eventually when the comet cools the growth will become not just static but be cryogenically preserved for harvest at a convienient time/location in space. Alternative to manipulating an actual comet one could in principle engineer an artificial comet to achieve desired results with greater efficiency.

It has also been suggested that comets can be used much like transportation vehicles. If piggy-backed by spacecraft they would assist a journey through the solar system. This idea could be a separate forum in itself ........ it's slightly off-topic from this one.

Sphinx
2005-Jan-25, 03:14 PM
Quoting Spacepunk "...it's slightly off topic." - But very interesting.