Scientists say it might be possible to break down liquid and solid human waste in parasitic reactors to grow food on future missions.
The lovely study, printed in Life Sciences in Space Research, has been headed by a team from Penn State University in Pennsylvania. They were investigating if astronauts on missions to Mars or elsewhere may use their own waste to provide energy to cultivate food.
“We pictured and analyzed the idea of simultaneously treating astronauts’ squander with microbes while producing a biomass that is edible either directly or indirectly depending on security issues,” Christopher House from Penn State, a co-author on the study, said in a announcement. “It’s somewhat strange, but the idea would be a little bit like Marmite or Vegemite where you are eating a smear of ‘parasitic goo.'”
Currently about the International Space Station (ISS), US astronauts recycle their pee (the Russians don’t), but solid waste is sent to burn up in Earth’s air. When it might be a bit gross, it ends up that solid waste might actually be quite useful when you’re not near Earth.
In their research, the team didn’t use real human waste, but rather used an artificial liquid and solid waste often used for waste management evaluations. They put this inside a cylinder 1.2 meters (4 feet) long, compact enough to fit on a spacecraft, inside which microbes broke it down through anaerobic digestion (without oxygen).
During the digestion process, they discovered that methane was created, which might grow another microbe called Methylococcus capsulatus which’therefore used in animal feed. From this, they created a M. capsulatus which has been 52 percent protein and 36% fat, which might be a food supply for people.
They’re also able to increase the pH level and temperature to grow two equally nutritious microbes, Halomonas desiderata and Thermus aquaticus, thus also removing any harmful pathogens.
“According to the outcomes of the study… microbial development is a quick choice for the production of new foodstuff in the liberated nutrition,” the team writes in their paper.
Whether astronauts will be feeding their “solid waste” to some microbial reactor on future missions, well, we’ll leave that up to NASA to decide.