Scientists are developing systems for processing in space water and oxygen, as well as the production of plant foods. One of them is already being tested by the participants of the long-term expedition ISS-61 under the leadership of the Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano.
An innovative device is an experimental photobioreactor (PBR), designed by researchers at the University of Stuttgart on behalf of the German Aviation and Cosmonautics Center (DLR) and built by Airbus. In early May, he was delivered to the space station by a SpaceX rocket.
According to German scientists, PBR will provide astronauts with oxygen during their many-month mission to Mars. The so-called Sabatier process is used to reduce oxygen from carbon dioxide. As a result of the reaction, named after the French chemist Paul Sabatier, carbon and hydrogen are converted to methane and water. The latter is split by electrolysis into hydrogen and oxygen.
To obtain biomass, researchers chose protein-rich microalgae Chlorella vulgaris, which convert carbon dioxide to biomass during photosynthesis and are used in food and dietary supplements. They will make up to 30% of the astronauts ration. Samples of algae grown on the International Space Station, after the experiment is completed, will be delivered to Earth for analysis.
It is planned to test up to 180 days. Scientists hope that the PBR technology will be useful not only in space, but also on Earth. It will help save resources, make possible the ecological farming.
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