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Lunar Plant - Hydroponic Plant Cultivation on a Lunar Base Using Nutrient Sources from Human Waste

Closed regenerative life support systems are developed to support astronauts that will stay long term in space, providing them with food, oxygen, and pure water. Limitation of resources that can be transported and waste management calls for a recycling and reuse strategy, and careful planning of cargo when they travel. In this project Norwegian researchers with over a decade of experience with plant experiments on the International Space Station (ISS) and ground research with ESA, will work together with the pioneer and world-leading group on closed biological systems in Russia, optimizing the plant cultivation compartment with recycling of nutrient elements and water, and reuse of nutrients from human waste.

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Novel plant production technological concepts will be developed in a joint comprehensive R&D project incorporating several development phases. Phase I is a scientific research stage to evaluate performance of lunar regolith simulant and cellulose substrate for their potential to be used as root support infrastructure in hydroponics as well as gaining fundamental knowledge on plant salt stress and tolerance. Phase II is a scientific research stage to establish balanced nutrient mediums capable of supporting their growth and best productivity. Research activities will reveal mechanisms and strategies relevant to achieving highest production yields and nutritional values of the plants. Knowledge, results, and generated technical data will be transferred and disseminated between project partners to be used to guide experimental development in later development stages. Phase III will cover hydroponic cultivation experiments with lettuce and halophytic plants. Quality testing on the plants with regard to food safety and nutritional values will be performed. Phase IV of the project will provide a technology evaluation with regard to its potential use for plant cultivation on a lunar base and terrestrial applications.

LunarPlant is a Research Project financed by the Research Council of Norway (35249). The project bring together an interdisciplinary and international team of scientists:

  • CIRiS has the project management and is responsible for plant hydroponic cultivation and analyzing the plant responses.
  • IBP SB RAS will develop the human waste mineralization regime and provide the nutrient solution for plant cultivation.
  • NTNU is responsible for food safety evaluation and analyzing the nutritional value of the plants.
  • SINTEF is responsible for the work on the root support substrate and the project dissemination.
  • VTT will design and manufacture the 3D cellulose-based foam to be used as root support.

The science team, including PhD and Postdoc, will develop knowledge, materials and technology leading to a significant step forward within closed life support systems for human space exploration and resource utilization of nutrient elements on Earth.

Key Factors

Project duration

2021 - 2025