This research project is focused on providing future astronauts ways to grow a complete diet on a planet that does not receive as much sunlight as Earth does. We evaluated a deep-water culture indoor ..
This research project is focused on providing future astronauts ways to grow a complete diet on a planet that does not receive as much sunlight as Earth does. We evaluated a deep-water culture indoor hydroponics system to grow Moringa Oleifera, a nutrient- and antioxidant-rich plant with leaves containing all nine essential amino acids. After initial aquaponics growth and 3 prior harvests, the lighting intensity was set to 590 W/m^2 in a twelve hour on/off cycle. This simulates an ambient light collection and reflection system on Mars. 32 plants were harvested 17 times over a 9 month period at regular intervals, when plant heights reached an average of 0.9 m and we found consumable leaf yield averaged 0.18g per plant, per day. Data suggests using Moringa Oleifera as a perennial hydroponic crop is possible under reduced illumination, and is a candidate food source for Mars explorers. Preliminary research has expanded to utilizing natural light, additional plants, three more hydroponic systems, and solar power. Currently, a solar powered 8x12ft greenhouse is being used to hydroponically grow Goji Berries, Moringa Oleifera, Bamboo, Kale, Chia and Sweet Potatoes. Combined, these foods contain a complete set of nutrients needed for a balanced human diet. The greenhouse and solar panels receive 590 W/m^2 by utilizing shade cloths. In conclusion, the project demonstrates that astronauts will have great potential in future missions to Mars to maximize the growth of superfoods using natural light, with a focus on a hydroponics system as the preferred farming method for space.