Thursday, June 29, 2017

Space Farms Will Feed Astronauts and Earthlings #Science

Matt Damon as astronaut and exobotanist Mark Watney in the film The Martian grows crops on Mars. 

Credit: 20th Century Fox/Handout

Everybody likes The Martian because he's an attractive young lad and the most determined survivor since Robinson Crusoe.

A number of misnomers exist in the title for the edification of all nitpicking nitwits such as myself since it's not about a space farm but rather a planetary farm on Mars.  They're not astronauts anymore if they have become farmers and nobody but nobody calls us earthlings.  The future may have Terrans and Martians but it will never, ever, have Earthlings.  Space farms will feed astronauts and earthlings

Canadian researchers are leading an effort to grow crops in space, paving the way for humanity to live on other worlds and push the frontiers on Earth.

Food is the main obstacle to long-term space exploration. It limits how far away from Earth we can travel and how long we can stay in space.

We can stock enough food for inhabitants of the International Space Station or even for travel to the moon and back. But if we are to travel to Mars and support long-term exploration missions, we need bio-regenerative, self-sustaining food production systems. Or, in simpler terms, space farms.

- PO

We will take the point but there are many things limiting the push to other worlds and have no question about food being one of the biggest.  We have another language demerit since we don't care for simpler terms since they're a highly-inelegant way to patronize someone.

The interested student is invited to review the article regarding challenges in farming Mars, all of which are formidable but eminently worthwhile.  However, the Rockhouse is more interested in that which was not in the article.

There are two primary features about farming either hydroponically in space or in Martian soil since both are entirely bereft of bugs which eat plants and there are no bacteria unless we bring them.  Scratch the part about bacteria for Mars since we really don't know if any type of bacterial life lives on Mars yet.

If we assume for the exercise both environments are sterile, these farm locations will represent the safest place for production anyone can find since they eliminate the biggest plague for farmers in damage via insects and infections.

Nothing is ever that simple since we have presented articles from time to time on the complexity of the interrelationships between different forms of life in the soil and how vitally needed such biological relationships are for successful plants.  It's not all bacteria we want to eliminate, just some of them we which we really hate.

The same consideration applies with insects since we hate locusts but we're dead without honeybees to pollinate the crops.  We want to lose some insects but definitely not all of them.

You know those things from common sense and science backs that knowledge although I don't have an immediate citation.

Onward to the Robo Bugs on Mars stage of the program since we know the whizkids are actively working on robo bees and they might even work on relatively small plantations on Mars but they will grow over time since we will assume, also for the sake of the exercise, Elon Musk's plans to terraform Mars to recreate an atmosphere can actually work.  Given an atmosphere so the bugs can fly, the robo bees might even get it done.

Terraforming is typically used to mean the transformation of the physical characteristics of a planet to match those of Earth but introducing soil bacteria is, in effect, bioforming the planet.  The Rockhouse suspects the soil bacteria will represent the biggest problem for farming because we don't know where we can interfere with such cycles but we know we probably can't interfere at all.  Therefore, we may have an all or nothing situation with soil bacteria so the interested student is strongly suggested to pursue that aspect of the science.

Ed:  some kid could become the Luther Burbank of Mars  (WIKI:  Luther Burbank)

Yuck it up, Johnny Appleseed, but some kid really will.

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