I want to eat Italian food on Mars

GROWING PLANTS ON MARS

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By Briardo Llorente – Macquarie University

Preparations are already underway for missions that will land humans on Mars in a decade or so. But what would people eat if these missions eventually lead to the permanent colonization of the red planet?

Once (if) humans do make it to Mars, a major challenge for any colony will be to generate a stable supply of food. The enormous costs of launching and resupplying resources from Earth will make that impractical.

Humans on Mars will need to move away from complete reliance on shipped cargo, and achieve a high level of self-sufficient and sustainable agriculture.

The recent discovery of liquid water on Mars – which adds new information to the question of whether we will find life on the planet – does raise the possibility of using such supplies to help grow food.

But water is only one of many things we will need if we’re to grow enough food on Mars.

WHAT SORT OF FOOD?

Previous work has suggested the use of microbes as a source of food on Mars. The use of hydroponic greenhouses and controlled environmental systems, similar to one being tested onboard the International Space Station to grow crops, is another option.

This month, in the journal Genes, we provide a new perspective based on the use of advanced synthetic biology to improve the potential performance of plant life on Mars.

Synthetic biology is a fast-growing field. It combines principles from engineering, DNA science, and computer science (among many other disciplines) to impart new and improved functions to living organisms.

Not only can we read DNA, but we can also design biological systems, test them, and even engineer whole organisms. Yeast is just one example of an industrial workhorse microbe whose whole genome is currently being re-engineered by an international consortium.

The technology has progressed so far that precision genetic engineering and automation can now be merged into automated robotic facilities, known as biofoundries.

These biofoundries can test millions of DNA designs in parallel to find the organisms with the qualities that we are looking for.

MARS: EARTH-LIKE BUT NOT EARTH

Although Mars is the most Earth-like of our neighbouring planets, Mars and Earth differ in many ways.

The gravity on Mars is around a third of that on Earth. Mars receives about half of the sunlight we get on Earth, but much higher levels of harmful ultraviolet (UV) and cosmic rays. The surface temperature of Mars is about -60℃ and it has a thin atmosphere primarily made of carbon dioxide.

Unlike Earth’s soil, which is humid and rich in nutrients and microorganisms that support plant growth, Mars is covered with regolith. This is an arid material that contains perchlorate chemicals that are toxic to humans.

Also – despite the latest sub-surface lake find – water on Mars mostly exists in the form of ice, and the low atmospheric pressure of the planet makes liquid water boil at around 5℃.

Plants on Earth have evolved for hundreds of millions of years and are adapted to terrestrial conditions, but they will not grow well on Mars.

This means that substantial resources that would be scarce and priceless for humans on Mars, like liquid water and energy, would need to be allocated to achieve efficient farming by artificially creating optimal plant growth conditions.

ADAPTING PLANTS TO MARS

A more rational alternative is to use synthetic biology to develop crops specifically for Mars. This formidable challenge can be tackled and fast-tracked by building a plant-focused Mars biofoundry.

Such an automated facility would be capable of expediting the engineering of biological designs and testing of their performance under simulated Martian conditions.

With adequate funding and active international collaboration, such an advanced facility could improve many of the traits required for making crops thrive on Mars within a decade.

This includes improving photosynthesis and photoprotection (to help protect plants from sunlight and UV rays), as well as drought and cold tolerance in plants, and engineering high-yield functional crops. We also need to modify microbes to detoxify and improve the Martian soil quality.

These are all challenges that are within the capability of modern synthetic biology.

BENEFITS FOR EARTH

Developing the next generation of crops required for sustaining humans on Mars would also have great benefits for people on Earth.

The growing global population is increasing the demand for food. To meet this demand we must increase agricultural productivity, but we have to do so without negatively impacting our environment.

The best way to achieve these goals would be to improve the crops that are already widely used. Setting up facilities such as the proposed Mars Biofoundry would bring immense benefit to the turnaround time of plant research with implications for food security and environmental protection.

So ultimately, the main beneficiary of efforts to develop crops for Mars would be Earth.

Source: The Conversation

 

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Occupy Mars Band Soloists in Italy

The Physics of Electronic Music: A Photo Essay By Bob Barboza

Music and science come together for the new visual jazz opera about the planet Mars.

Bob Barboza is selecting instruments for the “Occupy Mars Band Concert” in the USA.  He went to the NAMM Show in southern California to talk with musicians and instrument designers from around the world.   Some of the musicians will appear as soloists for Bob’s new visual jazz opera on the topics of  Mars and are we alone in the universe.  We continue to search for original compositions and writers on the topics of deep space and Mars.   For more information contact Suprschool@aol.com.

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Italian Food in Space

SPACE TRAVEL

Eating your veggies, even in space
by Staff Writers
Oslo, Norway (SPX) Jan 07, 2019


Wolff found that the plants can “smell” or detect how much nutrition is available when she ran experiments in climate-regulated growth chambers in the Netherlands. Photo: Silje Wolff

Fresh food is so attractive to astronauts that they toasted with salad when they were able to cultivate a few lettuce heads on the International Space Station three years ago.

In 2021, beans are on the menu to be grown in space, planted in high-tech planters developed at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).

“Astronauts like gardening and everything that reminds them of life on earth. They enjoy tending and watering the vegetables, and getting them to germinate,” says Silje Wolff, a plant physiologist at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Space (CIRiS), which is part of NTNU Social Research.

Wolff has just completed an experiment that involved growing lettuce for space. The lettuce was planted in artificial soil made from lava rock. The goal is for the plants to grow directly in water that is supplemented with plant nutrients.

“The dream of every astronaut is to be able to eat fresh food – like strawberries, cherry tomatoes or anything that’s really flavorful. Someday that will certainly be possible. We envision a greenhouse with several varieties of vegetables,” says Wolff.

The longest stays at the International Space Station have been six months. People travelling to Mars will need to be prepared to stay in space for at least a year.

The European Space Agency plans to build a lunar base in 2030 as a stopover on the way to Mars. NASA plans to fly directly to the planet with a target landing date of 2030.

“The way space travel works today, it’s almost impossible to take along all the resources you need. That’s why we have to develop a biological system so astronauts can produce their own food, and recycle all of the resources,” says Wolff.

Today’s astronauts eat only freeze-dried and vacuum-packed foods.

“Astronauts struggle with having little appetite. They often lose weight. Addressing the psychological aspect of eating something fresh is one of our goals. Vacuum-packed food doesn’t really remind you of food. Having something fresh that triggers the appetite and the right receptors in the brain is important,” Wolff says.

NTNU and CIRiS are collaborating with Italian and French researchers in their quest to cultivate plant-based food for long space journeys.

CIRiS tests the new equipment made by NTNU’s technical workshop – very sophisticated planters that regulate all the water, nutrients, gas and air the plants need. In space, all the water and food has to be recovered. This means that plant fertilization needs to be as precise as possible.

Wolff has conducted experiments in climate-regulated growth chambers in the Netherlands as one aspect of this research.

Of all the nutrients plants use, they use nitrogen the most. During her experiments, Wolff looked at different nutrient doses and how they affected the plants’ water uptake.

“We found that plants can, in a way, ‘smell’ the amount of nutrients available to them. When the nitrogen concentration is very low, the plant will absorb more water and thus more nitrogen until it reaches an optimal level. The plant has a mechanism that turns on when the nitrogen level is adequate. Then it adjusts both nitrogen and water absorption down,” says Wolff.

Everything that can be tested on Earth has now been carried out. The next step is to grow beans in space to observe the effect of no gravity on plants’ ability to transport water and absorb nutrients. Simulating the absence of gravity can’t be done on Earth.

The beans are placed in a centrifuge to sprout and grow in the space station. The centrifuge is rotated to create different amounts of gravity.

“The art of getting something to grow in space can be transferred to our planet,” Wolff said. “This is how we create a setup that produces both the microgravity conditions in the space station and the 1-g force that exists on Earth.”

That will allow her to compare how the different gravitational levels affect the plants in space. On Earth, gravity causes warm air to rise while cold air sinks. In the space station, air is more stationary, causing astronauts to always have a low-grade fever. Plants are also affected.

“Stationary air affects a layer on the underside of the leaf where the stoma pores are located. When gravity disappears, the boundary layer in the slit-shaped apertures thickens. This reduces evaporation and causes the leaf temperature to increase. Water vapour diffusion to the environment is an important part of plant regulation and can be compared with sweating to cool the body in humans and animals,” says Wolff.

Food production in cities offers an opportunity to produce more food in the most sustainable way. Cities don’t have much soil for cultivation, but a lot becomes possible if you can plant directly in water in indoor closed systems where all aspects of the climate are regulated.

“Recycling and precise fertilization are key to achieving more sustainable food production. By growing plants directly in water with dissolved nutrients, fertilization and irrigation are much easier to control,” says Wolff.

“The plants become less sensitive to nutritional deficiency because the roots are in direct contact with the nutrients. They’re always able to access new nutrients through the water, and can use absolutely all the nutrients available – unlike with soil that binds the nutrients and affects their availability to the roots. And the roots don’t rot when the water is mixed with a little oxygen,” she says.

Research Report: Testing New Concepts for Crop Cultivation in Space: Effects of Rooting Volume and Nitrogen Availability Silje A. Wolff, Carolina F. Palma, Leo Marcelis, Ann-Iren Kittang Jost and Sander H. van Delden. Life 2018, 8(4), 45

Side Note:

Mars Related STEAM++ International Student projects:

Bob Barboza is testing the soil from the base of volcanoes and a team of high school Jr. astronauts are using the soil for growing plants for Mars.   The students of Pedro Pierce High School on the Island of Fogo, Republic of Cabo Verde and students from the Long Beach Unified School District are working with the Barboza Space Center in southern California.  This year the Barboza Space Center Tiger teams will be studying the growth of cucumbers and beans.   http://www.BarbozaSpaceCenter.com

 

Astronauts in the News

NASA ASTRONAUTS FLYING ABOARD CREW DRAGON

On Friday, August 3, 2018, NASA announced the first four astronauts who will launch aboard Crew Dragon (also known as Dragon 2) to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which will return human spaceflight capability to the United States for the first time since the Space Shuttle Program was retired in 2011.

Top row, left to right: NASA Astronauts Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins; bottom row, left to right:  NASA Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley
Following SpaceX’s first demonstration mission without humans aboard Crew Dragon targeted for November 2018, Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley will be the first two NASA astronauts to fly in the Dragon spacecraft. This mission, currently targeted for April 2019, will liftoff from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida with the astronauts aboard Crew Dragon atop a Falcon 9 rocket.

From left to right: NASA Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley
After Crew Dragon’s demonstration mission with crew is complete, Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins will be the first two NASA astronauts to launch aboard Crew Dragon to the International Space Station for a long-duration mission. This mission will mark SpaceX’s first operational crew mission under our current Commercial Crew Transportation Capability contract with NASA.

From left to right: NASA Astronauts Victor Glover and Mike Hopkins
As Dragon prepares to carry humans for the first time, the spacecraft continues to make regular trips to the International Space Station carrying cargo under SpaceX’s Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA. Currently, Dragon is the only spacecraft flying that is capable of returning significant amounts of cargo to Earth.

 

Italy we need your help creating Mars Clocks

What is a Mars Clock?  It is a hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) project to get kids excited about space mathematics.  Bob Barboza is the founder/director of the Barboza Space Center in Long Beach, California.  He trains Jr. astronauts, engineers and scientists for the “Occupy Mars Learning Adventures  International Fellowship Programs.”  His passion is space mathematics.

We invite you to share some of your creative ideas in creating  Mars clocks.  We have provided some samples to inspire you below.   If you do the math we will help by creating the clocks or you are welcome to create your own Mars clock from start to finish.  We just want to get our students around the world excited about math.  If and when we go to Mars, we will use one of these clocks to tell time, to remind us of planet Earth.

Will you help us?

www.KidsTalkRadioMathematics.WordPress.com

Contact: Bob Barboza at. Suprschool@aol.com.  

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