Recently, a Russian shuttle intended to carry supplies to the International Space Station crashed moments after launch. While the space station has more than enough supplies right now, it’s easy to see how such an incident could cause major supply issues.
And that got us thinking…
In our Pandora Project series (book one, Escape Velocity, is due out in January from Carina Press), humans have colonized the moon in addition to building several artificial colony structures at Earth’s LaGrange Points…and they’re preparing for a mission that will send hundreds of people out in a spaceship for several years.
So we’ve had to think a lot about how to deal with essential supplies in space. Air, food, and water were our biggest concerns. Fortunately, we managed to combine the solutions to those issues. Being able to extrapolate from current technology without being tied to current technology makes it a lot easier for us than it is for the folks on the International Space Station.
Right now, space food is primarily canned or otherwise processed and preserved meals. One astronaut on the International Space Station has written about his culinary experiences. It didn’t sound feasible for an extended long-term trip including families. We took into account the emotional and mental strain that would be put on our travelers by being limited to such food…and decided to move toward as much fresh food as possible.
While we went with an adapted version of traditional farming for the lunar colony, we chose hydroponics for growing plants on the spaceship. Fortunately, that helped resolve one of our other issues in the process: air. Plants produce breathable air. Hooray!
But we couldn’t rely solely on plants for sustenance. We needed more sources of protein. For that, we turned to cultured meat. Vat-grown meat is actually a current technology, though we’re not quite at the point of it being commercially viable.
Of course, the hydroponics only made our need for water greater. For that, we turned to the technologies the space station is actually using. Not only do they use a water reclamation system to purify wastewater and urine, they also have a system to turn waste hydrogen and carbon dioxide into potable water and are working on a new system by which methane would be processed into water. How cool is that?
The idea that we’re breathing, eating, and drinking what used to be human waste is one we’re not very comfortable with. In the future, we’ll have to accept that what we’re consuming, bathing in, and even wearing is coming from materials processed through multiple bodies. It’ll be key to surviving without drowning in our effluence, not just technology for life in space.
Does the concept of that kind of “recycling” gross you out? Or are you looking forward to a more efficient, waste-free future?