Session 8

Water, organics and life support for human exploration in low Earth orbit, the Moon and beyond

09/11 – Monday

Afternoon

15:00 - 15:18 C.R.O.P. Combined Regenerative Organic-Food Production and Eu:CROPIS – Progressive Implementation of community based Bioregenerative Systems (Jens Hauslage)

Authors
  1. Jens Hauslage (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V. (DLR))
  2. et al. (.)
Abstract

The reutilization of nutrients bound in organic wastes and wastewaters is a central topic of BLSS (Bioregenerative Life Support System) research. The conversion of organic wastes into inorganic compounds utilizable by plants proceeds stepwise and each step is carried out by specific microorganisms with varying environmental demands. In BLSS designs different steps are often allocated to different treatment units. Each unit is inoculated with selected microbial cultures and provides optimal growth conditions for these. But as wastes usually carry their decomposers with them, specified inoculates are difficult to maintain pure.
The general aim of the C.R.O.P. (Combined Regenerative Organic food Production) project is to develop a biowaste management system, which produces liquid fertilizer for soilless plant cultivation out of nitrogen rich waste water like urine and/or liquid animal manure. In the C.R.O.P. Biofiltration Laboratory in Cologne, Germany trickling filters fitted with lava rocks as filter material and inoculated with garden soil are currently optimized for urine degradation. To date the optimization process succeeded in degrading undiluted urine. Microbiological analyses showed that a diverse microbial community composed of bacteria of various functions populates the lava rocks in the filters indicating their potential to degrade substrates other than urine. Such a quasi-natural community makes the system multifunctional with regard to the substrates that can be degraded, and stable with regard to invasion of undesirable microorganisms. Although in isolated habitats, microorganisms necessary for degradation will also be present on wastes and in waste waters, their diversity will be limited to those species introduced into the system. Therefore, it is crucial to establish a stable microbial community in the waste processing system that is capable to degrade all kinds of wastes, including micropollutants like pharmaceutical residues.The next optimization step is to evaluate the impact of mixed substrates on the bacterial population and nitrification rates.
The filter design bases on the assumption that natural communities allow robust performance, because they provide several alternative metabolic pathways for the desired function. Within the compact satellite Mission Eu:CROPIS the microbial community in a urine degrading C.R.O.P.-filter is extended by the unicellular flagellate Euglena gracilis. In the closed satellite system the Euglena culture delivers the oxygen necessary for filter function and can buffer excess ammonia concentrations in case of delayed filter performance. The nutrient containing solution resulting from the filtration process is fed into a miniature hydroponic greenhouse to support tomato growth in a seed to seed.
The Eu:CROPIS mission offers the opportunity to analyze such an integrated biological life support system under different accelerations (lunar and martian gravity) utilizing state of the art methods for image, ion chromatographic and molecular analyses in a long term space experiment. At the same time the Eu:CROPIS satellite is a test bed for the application of these methods in space and will deliver valuable information for future satellite missions in the field of life sciences and human exploration.

15:18 - 15:36 Eu:CROPIS – A biological long-term experiment under Moon and Mars gravity aboard a German compact satellite (Sebastian Strauch)

Authors
  1. Sebastian Strauch (Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nürnberg, Cell Biology Division)
  2. Jens Hauslage (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt, Institute of Aerospace Medicine)
  3. Peter Richter (Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nürnberg, Cell Biology Division)
  4. Ina Becker (Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nürnberg, Cell Biology Division)
  5. Julia Krueger (Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nürnberg, Cell Biology Division)
  6. Ferdinand Haag (Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nürnberg, Cell Biology Division)
  7. Hartmut Mueller (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt, Institute of Space Systems)
  8. Michael Lebert (Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Cell Biology Division)
Abstract

Eu:CROPIS is a compact satellite mission of the German Aerospace Agency (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt, DLR). Its payload is a biological experiment implementing a CROP filter system to convert artificial urine to nitrate in order to utilize it as a fertilizer to grow tomatoes. Euglena gracilis, a photosynthetic flagellate is on board as well to stabilize the system and to be monitored during the long-term mission of Eu:CROPIS.
The satellite itself, built by DLR, will stay operational for about one year. It is a spin-stabilized cylinder with two identical compartments. After an initial phase, it will start rotating to obtain an acceleration force of 0.18 x g at the reference radius, which will give the tomatoes the same gravitational stimulus, as they would receive while growing on Moon. 16 cameras will capture the growth of the tomatoes every day. PAM devices will monitor photosynthetic efficiency. After fruit bearing, the compartment will be shut off and the second one will be started. The same experimental procedure will start, but due to a higher rotational speed there will be Martian gravity (0.38 x g).
The experiments commences by starting the pumps which circle water from the water tank through the CROP filter, the greenhouse, and back. It will pass an exchange unit, where a semipermeable membrane allows the passage of small molecules as O2, CO2, and nitrogen species to the other closed loop, which is a tank with Euglena gracilis. These photosynthetic flagellates provide oxygen during the germination phase of the tomatoes and the “booting” of the CROP filter. They also lower ammonia peaks after injection, because other than higher plants they prefer ammonia to nitrate as a source of nitrogen. The cells will await the experiment in an encysted state and will hatch after pumps flush them out of the dormant mode containers within the closed loop. The fitness of the cells will be monitored with a redundant PAM device to measure photosynthetic efficiency.
The closed loop of greenhouse, water reservoir and filter will be monitored with an ion chromatography device to learn more about the nitrogen cycle in altered gravity. During the entire mission, samples of Euglena gracilis will be taken and analyzed by means of an automated PCR-machine; recent studies indicated proteins involved in gravisensing and the transcription of their genes shall be observed in order to see differences.
More than 40 temperature sensors will survey the correct functioning of the biological experiment. The electronics will be monitored in respect to temperature, voltage, and current consumption. DLRs institute of aerospace medicine will provide two radiometers to measure cosmic radiation levels inside and outside of the satellite.
Since the unique possibility of an extended experimental period in Moon and Mars gravity attracted the interest of other scientific groups, DLR granted NASA a space and energy budget to perform an independent experiment located in the outer satellite wall.
We will give a scientific and technical overview over the mission and its background.

15:36 - 15:54 Reactivation of microbial nitrogen cycling conversions after Lower Earth Orbit Space exposure (Ralph Lindeboom)

Authors
  1. Ralph Lindeboom (Ghent University)
  2. Josè Maria Carvajal Arroyo (Ghent University)
  3. Chiara Ilgrande (Ghent University)
  4. Ilse Coninx (SCK-CEN)
  5. Olivier Van Hoey (SCK-CEN)
  6. Julia Morozova (Institute of Biomedical Problems / Russian Academy of Sciences)
  7. Kai Udert (EAWAG)
  8. Hugo Roume (Ghent University)
  9. Benedikt Sas (Ghent University)
  10. Christel Paille (ESA-ESTEC/RSSD, Noordwijk, The Netherlands)
  11. Christophe Lasseur (ESA-ESTEC/RSSD, Noordwijk, The Netherlands)
  12. Viacheslav Ilyin (Institute of Biomedical Problems / Russian Academy of Sciences)
  13. Peter Clauwaert (Ghent University)
  14. Natalie Leys (SCK-CEN)
  15. Siegfried E. Vlaeminck (University of Antwerp – Ghent University)
Abstract

Various processes within the microbial nitrogen cycle are considered as resource efficient alternatives to the physicochemical methods for recovery of both nitrogen and water for long-term manned Space missions. One of the major application challenges is to start up biological reactors with inocula that can be preserved under the conditions of microgravity and radiation conditions prevalent in Space. Furthermore, when a biological treatment system fails, re-inoculation should prevent that it take months to recover steady-state operation. In the current study, a Space flight was performed with (i) three natural microbial communities, containing ureolytic bacteria, ammonia oxidizing archaea (AOA) and bacteria (AOB), nitrite oxidizing bacteria (NOB), denitrifiers and anammox bacteria (AnAOB), and with (ii) a synthetic community of the ureolytic Cupriavidus pinatubonensis, the AOB Nitrosomonas europaea and the NOB Nitrobacter winogradskyi. The cultures were sent on a PHOTON-M4 flight to Lower Earth Orbit (LEO) Space and were exposed to 20 ± 4°C, hyper and μ-gravity and between ca. 20 and ca. 40 mGy of radiation over 44 days, obtaining a radiation dosage which is about the double as inside the International Space Station (ISS). The measured background radiation on Earth was only 1.6 ± 0.1 mGy over the same period. Upon return to Earth the cultures were reactivated and biomass-specific activity expressed mg N g-1 VSS (volatile suspended solids) d-1 was compared to the same cultures that were stored terrestrially at ambient temperature (23 ± 3°C) and in the refrigerator (4°C). For all functional groups except AOA and denitrifiers, the LEO samples performed either similar or better after reactivation compared to the ambient terrestrial stored cultures. The storage at 4°C showed a considerable activity decrease compared to both the LEO and the ambient terrestrially stored cultures, so low temperature had a stronger effect on preserved activity than increased radiation.
Currently, Illumina-sequencing of the microbial communities is being processed. In conclusion, this study for the first time reports on the specific Space-flight survival capacity of several key conversions in the microbial nitrogen cycle, a necessary step in advancing toward a bio-regenerative life support system.

15:54 - 16:12 Sweet potato culture in a bio-regenerative life support system in space (Yoshiaki Kitaya)

Authors
  1. Yoshiaki Kitaya (Osaka Prefecture University)
Abstract

Plant production in space has recently been of greater concern as the possibility of realizing manned space flight over a long term increases, because life support of crew in long-duration space missions for other planets will be highly dependent on self-sufficiency in production of food, atmospheric O2 and clean water with plants in a bio-regenerative life support system. Therefore, the space farming system with scheduling of crop production, obtaining high yields with a rapid turnover rate, converting atmospheric CO2 to O2 and purifying water should be established with employing suitable plant species and cultivars and precisely controlling environmental variables around plants grown at a high density in a limited space. We are developing a sweet potato culture system for producing tuberous roots as a high-calorie food and fresh edible leaves and stems as a nutritive functional vegetable food in space. In this study, we investigated the ability of clean water production through transpiration as well as food production and CO2 to O2 conversion through photosynthesis in the sweet potato production system. The biomass of edible parts in the whole plant was almost 100%. The proportion of the top (leaves and stems) and tuberous roots was strongly affected by environmental variables even when the total biomass production was mostly the same. The production of biomass and clean water was controllable especially by light, atmospheric CO2 and rooting medium moisture regimes. It was confirmed that sweet potato can be utilized for the vegetable crop as well as the root crop allowing a little waste and is a promising functional crop for supporting long-duration human activity in space.

16:12 - 16:30 Higher plants in life support systems: Closed loop hydroponics and water management in fractional gravity (Liz Helena Coelho)

Authors
  1. Liz Helena Coelho (NTNU Samfunnsforskning AS, Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Space (CIRiS))
  2. Silje Aase Wolff (NTNU Samfunnsforskning AS, Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Space (CIRiS))
  3. Tore Martin Hauan (NTNU Samfunnsforskning AS, Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Space (CIRiS))
  4. Irene Karoliussen (NTNU Samfunnsforskning AS, Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Space)
  5. Ann-iren Kittang Jost (NTNU Samfunnsforskning AS, Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Space (CIRiS))
Abstract

Long term human space exploration missions require a life support system capable of regenerating all the essentials for survival. Higher plants can be utilised to provide a continuous supply of fresh food, fresh air, and clean water for humans. The extensive work performed in various space experiments have shown that higher plants are able to adapt to space conditions in low Earth orbit. However, the hardware has turned out to be of great importance for the results in microgravity research. Plant hydration and related processes are considered to be one of the most challenging aspects of plant cultivation in space. For long term experiments and future plant production as part of Closed Regenerative Life Support Systems (CRLSS), hydroponic systems with recirculation of the nutrient solution have been pointed out as relevant technologies. Closed loop hydroponics is also considered to be one of the main components for sustainable plant production in Earth based greenhouses. The main challenges with closed hydroponic systems for long term crops are the high risk of spread of root borne pathogens, and the monitoring and control of nutrient solution composition. For successful implementation of recycling hydroponics in space experiments and CRLSS, as well as for increased efficiency of Earth based greenhouses, real-time analysis of nutrient solution composition is essential. On Earth such monitoring initiates higher yields and improved crop quality, reduced water and nutrient use and increased automation of growth systems. These technologies are also highly relevant for space CRLSS and would significantly increase the scientific output with regard to nutrient assimilation in space.

17:30 - 17:48 Bio-Regenerative Life Support System Major Instabilities Analysis and Critical Failure Time Evaluation (Vadim Rygalov)

Authors
  1. Vadim Rygalov (Department of Space Studies, University of North Dakota)
  2. Curt Holmer (Department of Space Studies, University of North Dakota)
Abstract

Human rated bio-regenerative life support technologies for potential space applications have been extensively tested in ground based experiments (BIOS-3, Russian Federation; BioPLEX and Biosphere 2, USA; MELiSSA project, European Union; CEEF, Japan; Luna Palace, China). These complex systems have complex design requirements and have multiple system to system interdependencies. Many of these complex interactions and dependencies occur along multiple timelines in both short and long term durations. The results of the actual closure tests, since they are relatively long in duration, allows for both identification for major instabilities occurring within those system during their functioning and the evaluation for characteristic times of system functionality.
Preliminary numerical evaluation for those functional times (by using mathematical modeling approaches) and simulation models shows that suggested technologies are not capable to provide the level of life support function required for long duration manned missions for deep space exploration (such as mission to Mars or/and beyond). Most of these simulations and models have been focused on overall capability and functional duration. However, early warning signs of system instability can be identified and further research directions for both potential countermeasures and processes to extend functionality duration can be suggested. Using these, the resources for research can be outlined.
A bio-regenerative life support system when integrated with both an early warning system and combined with an In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) approach has the potential to bridge the gap between mission mass considerations and levels of functionality required for long duration missions. Utilizing this approach, general design requirements can be formulated and new hybrid life support approach for manned mission of long duration in space can be suggested.

17:48 - 18:06 Biospheric Life Support-integrating biological regeneration into space human protection (Mauricio Rocha)

Authors
  1. Mauricio Rocha (Research candidate, ICL Aero, UK)
Abstract

A biosphere stands for a set of biomes (regional biological communities) interacting in a materially closed, though energetically open, ecological system (CES). Earth’s biosphere, the thin life layer on the planet’s surface, can be seen as a natural CES. In Life Sciences, artificial CESs– local ecosystems fragments with varying scales/degrees of closure, are considered convenient/representatives objects of study. For outer space, these concepts can be applied to the issue of life support- a consideration as more significant as the distance from Earth increases.

In the nineties, growing on the Russian expertise on biological life support, backed by a multidisciplinary science team, the famous Biosphere 2 appeared. That project innovated, by assembling a set of Earth biomes– plus an (tentative) organic ag one, inside a closed Mars-like structure, next to 1.5 ha under glass, in Arizona. The crew of 8 inside fulfilled their two years contract, though facing setbacks- the system failed, e.g., to produce enough food/air supplies. But their “failures”- if this word can be fairly applied to science endeavors, were as meaningful as their achievements for the future of life support systems (LSS) research.

By this period, the Russians had accumulated experience in extended orbital stays, achieving biological outcomes inside their stations– e.g. complete wheat cycles. After reaching the Moon, the US administration decided to change national priorities, putting the space program as part of a “détente” policy, devised to relief international tensions. Alongside US space shuttle program, the Russians were invited to join the new International Space Station (ISS), bringing to that pragmatic project, also their physical-chemical LSS– top air/water regenerative technology at the time. Present US policy keeps the ISS operational, extending its service past its planned retirement (2016). The extension will allow NASA and other agencies to deploy new experiments there, resuming basic research focusing more forward-looking goals.

For deep-space, since consumables logistics becomes more difficult- and habitability an issue, with diminishing Earth’s view, further research has been recommended. Four major areas have been identified for human protection: (1) radiation mitigation; (2) highly recyclable bio-regenerative LSS; (3) microgravity countermeasures– including artificial gravity, and (4) psychological safety.
To contribute in the efforts to address these issues, a basic lab/virtual integrative research has been proposed, assuming that:

I)It won’t be possible to send people in long deep space missions, safely, with the current (low quality of life) support technology (ISS micro-gravity ‘up-gradings’);

II)The alternative (by ex B-2 Project staff) to implant a Mars surface human supportive biosphere would not be possible too, due environmental restraints (life could adapt and survive, but not necessarily to favor humans).

From the above considerations arises the question:

Would an average approach be possible where, by applying the artificial gravity concept to S/Cs, a piece of Earth biosphere could be brought with crew(s) inside a transit vehicle- so enhancing its habitability/autonomy in long deep space missions?

For this research question a provisory answer/hypothesis has been provided.

18:06 - 18:24 Application of remote sensing/gis techniques in sustainable development of the kom ombo area, upper egypt (Mamdouh Abdeen)

Authors
  1. Mamdouh Abdeen (National Authority for Remote Sensing and Space Sciences)
Abstract

The aim of the present project is to establish a model for sustainable development for the Kom Ombo area in the Upper Egypt based on a multidisciplinary study using geographical information system (GIS), satellite data and field investigation. The study focuses on the natural resources, human resources and natural hazards. In this study a complete digital geo-environmental data base of about 3725 km2 area covering the Kom Ombo area was built. Surface and subsurface as well as meteorological data were compiled and digitized. Surface data includes physiography, drainage network, climate, geology, structures, soil type, economic minerals, building materials irrigation canals, drains and roads network. Subsurface data includes paleo-drainage network and groundwater potentiality. Data were completed and up-dated by interpretation of Landsat satellite images and field check. According to the careful evaluation of the available data, a management plan for optimum land-use development has been proposed. The efforts are segmented into five areas: (1) Field mapping and studies of the surface geological, structures, soil and geomorphic units using Landsat 7 Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+) images; (2) Geomorphological analysis of critical topographic elements such as fault scarps, mountain fronts, stream orientations and gradients, and alluvial fans using a digital elevation model (DEM) to assess the flash flood vulnerability and groundwater recharge potentiality; (3) Mapping subsurface drainage network relying on capabilities of Shuttle Imaging Radar (SIR), C/X Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR); (4) Compilation of the historical and instrumental seismological (earthquakes) information for the area and correlation of these data with the regional faults; and (5) Building a GIS data base and establishing a model for site selection for sustainable development.

18:24 - 18:42 The nitrogen cycle in Life Support Systems (Peter Clauwaert)

Authors
Peter Clauwaert (Ghent University)
Chiara Ilgrande (Ghent University)
Marlies Christiaens (Ghent University)
Ralph Lindeboom (Ghent University)
Claude-Gilles Dussap (Université Blaise Pascal – Clermont-Ferrand II)
Francesc Gòdia (Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona)
Benedikt Sas (Ghent University)
Nico Boon (Ghent University)
Korneel Rabaey (Ghent University)
Natalie Leys (SCK-CEN)
Danny Geelen (Ghent University)
Siegfried E. Vlaeminck (University of Antwerp – Ghent University)
Abstract
At present, human life in Space flights and in the International Space Station (ISS) is guaranteed by a regular resupply of food. However, in order to explore deep Space with long term missions and Space habitation, resupply from Earth becomes difficult because of the high transport time, costs, mass and volume restrictions and the negative impact on the design of the spacecrafts. As a result, a maximized recovery and reuse of nutrients might become mandatory in order to produce food for these types of missions. Both physico-chemical and biological technologies, have been proposed to recover nitrogen for food production from the solid wastes (crop residues, kitchen waste, faeces) and aqueous waste streams (urine, flush water, effluent of hydroponics, wastewater from cooking and personal hygiene). Incineration and wet oxidation are two physico-chemical conversion technologies that might turn out very important for Life Support Systems for Space, however very little research has been dedicated to the fate of the nitrogen in these processes. Several biological nitrogen conversion processes are being considered in the strategy of different international Space Agencies, such as microbial hydrolysis (ammonification), ammonia and nitrite oxidation and denitrification. Very little is known about the behavior and performance of the microorganisms involved in these processes in Space conditions (micro-gravity, higher radiation levels) and the engineering of bioreactors to perform these processes in a Space environment is still in its infancy.
Except for growing herbivorous animals on inedible crop residues and kitchen waste, protein production for human consumption in a Life Support System for Space typically relies on the conversion of nitrogen containing waste compounds into simple molecules such as ammonia, nitrate or urea to produce edible bacteria, yeasts, algae and higher plants. In that way, the production of N2O and NOx is considered as an inefficiency and the formation of N2 causes the need to include a nitrogen fixation step (biological or physico-chemical) as an additional process in closing the nitrogen cycle.
Besides assessing and performing trade-offs between the conversion technologies for closing material cycles (water, N, P, K, trace elements, …) in Space, adequate focus is required on peripheral processes such as stabilization, storage, size reduction, homogenization, separation and hygienisation in Space conditions. Separation technologies that might be relevant in the context of aqueous nitrogen recovery are membrane filtration, crystallization, volatilization, electrodialysis, and electrochemical ammonia recovery.
In this presentation, the different technologies and combinations of technologies will be reviewed to identify the gaps in knowledge and experience in closing the nitrogen cycle in Life Support Systems for Space.

Poster session S8

(Monday and Tuesday: 16:30 – 17:30)

  • S8P1: Interplanetary Space Station (Hari Shankar R L)
  • S8P2: Curcumin ameliorates cognitive deficits heavy ion irradiation-induced learning and memory deficits through enhancing of Nrf2 antioxidant signaling pathways (Hong Zhang)
  • S8P3: Comparison of hydrogen rich multilayered shielding material with standard materials when employed against cosmic ray particles using GEANT4 to enable deep space manned missions. (Afraz Khan)
  • S8P4: The use of water during the Crew 144, Mars Desert Research Station, Utah Desert (Antonio de Morais)