A urine-fuelled soil-based bioregenerative life support system for long-term and long-distance manned space missions.
A soil-based cropping unit fuelled with human urine for long-term manned space missions was investigated with the aim to analyze whether a closed-loop nutrient cycle from human liquid wastes was achievable. Its ecohydrology and biogeochemistry were analysed in microgravity with the use of an advanced computational tool. Urine from the crew was used to supply primary (N, P, and K) and secondary (S, Ca and Mg) nutrients to wheat and soybean plants in the controlled cropping unit. Breakdown of urine compounds into primary and secondary nutrients as well as byproduct gases, adsorbed, and uptake fractions were tracked over a period of 20 years. Results suggested that human urine could satisfy the demand of at least 3 to 4 out of 6 nutrients with an offset in pH and salinity tolerable by plants. It was therefore inferred that a urine-fuelled life support system can introduce a number of advantages including: (1) recycling of liquids wastes and production of food; (2) forgiveness of neglect as compared to engineered electro-mechanical systems that may fail under unexpected or unplanned conditions; and (3) reduction of supply and waste loads during space missions.
Maggi, F; Tang, FHM; Pallud, C; Gu, C
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