Construction of a vertical NFT hydroponics system in the MDRS
A steady supply of food for the astronauts is one of the most fundamental requirements for any autonomous long-term space mission, such as an expedition to Mars. That food will almost exclusively be supplied by plants grown hydroponically in very tightly packed greenhouses, with very high exposure to different risk factors. It is therefore essential to evaluate how such a system evolves with and reacts to different stress stimuli, by testing it on Earth before departure.
This experiment has two goals : firstly, the system, in the form of a vertical tower, will be built from the most basic materials available, emulating the processs Martian astronauts would have to go through in case of a systems failure in which they would have to rebuild their food supply in restricted space and with restricted materials. Secondly, we will simulate the effects of extreme temperature variations, such as those which could potentially be encountered in a Martian setting, on different factors including plant growth, presence of pests,and nutrient degradation. This research will allow us to deepen our understanding of growth dynamics in the particular environment that is a space station, and enhance the chances of success for future missions.