Turning Poop Back Into Food

Alessia Andreotti
August 26th 2015

After looking for ways to grow vegetables in orbit, Nasa funded a program to turn astronauts’ poop into food. According to the US space agency, the project could have big impacts for space exploration by "providing the means to produce food on site at distant destinations using synthetic, biology-based approaches".

Nasa allocated $ 200,000 a year for up to three years for this research called “Synthetic Biology for Recycling Human Waste into Food, Nutraceuticals, and Materials: Closing the Loop for Long-Term Space Travel”. The goal for scientists at Clemson University in South Carolina is to figure out how to recycle human faeces into synthetic food that could sustain astronauts during extended journeys or on a Martian colony.

There's only a limited amount of supplies that can go in a rocket to Mars, and there's already a demand for food, oxygen and rocket fuel. It is an engineering challenge to stuff a spaceship with enough food for roughly nine months for a one-way mission. Since the Space Shuttle program ended in 2011, NASA has paid commercial carriers such as Space X to ferry supplies of food to and from the space station.

At the moment there is not a lot of information available on the project, but what we know is that if the research will be successful the food that will sustain future generations as we colonize our way across space may be none other than our own wastes. However astronauts already drink their own recycled pee, space travelers might not be so delighted about the thought of consuming their own processed poop.

Source: Science Alert
Image: Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti drinks an espresso in space.

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