New non-local and autonomous mobile technology, just like a space capsule… – Marc BrÃˆtillot
It looks like science-fiction, but it works ! – Caroline Champion
Jules Verne would have loved this – some food fiction with powerful visualization. – Alok Nandi & Alexandre Gauthier
PLANT is a concept developed in cooperation with NASA that enables astronauts to grow food on long duration space flights in a clean and safe way. The grown vegetables are meant to be an addition to the daily diet of the crew, giving them the sensation of fresh food even far out in space. The design consist out of a pillow, which contains the seed and hydroponic media, a watering device as well as the implementation of growing chambers into the spaceship. It indicates the harvesting cycle and gives the astronauts a feedback about elapsed time far away from earth.2. The Brief: Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the context for the project, and what was the challenge posed to you?
On long duration space missions to asteroids or the Mars the supply of food becomes a whole new dimension. Weight, shelf life as well as acceptance for the crew are the most critical issues. The diet must satisfy both physical and mental needs of the astronauts to guarantee their full performance.
Nowadays astronauts usually stay in space from 3 to 6 month, but even during that time the monotony of the food and the connected discomfort for the crew is a big problem. To handle this matter fresh fruits and other special items are provided for special occasions every time a new supply arrives the space station.
Since this is not possible for long duration space missions other possibilities need to be explored to enable a diverse, satisfying and acceptable alimentation.
We entered the NASA facilities using the eyes of designers. The surprising thing was the fact, that there is such a high amount of research already done that disappears in storage cabinets. With the brief to create something that supports astronauts on a long duration mission in any way, we picked up on existing research that was done with plants on the International Space Station and developed it further to a system and an interior application in a possible future space ship.4. The Process: Describe the rigor that informed your project. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) What stakeholder interests did you consider? (Audience, business, organization, labor, manufacturing, distribution, etc., as applicable)
Since this project was a cooperation with Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston we had the possibility to use NASAs resources at the Lunar Plantetery Institute (LPI), which provided us with a massive source of research materials and documents. The LPI is a scientific research institute dedicated to study of the solar system, its formation, evolution, and current state. The Institute is part of the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) and is supported by the Science Mission Directorate of the NASA. During the stay at LPI we had the privilege to listen to lectures and discuss our concepts with NASA researchers from various fields and even with Astronauts, who have had real life experience within Space exploration.
Apart from that we had the unique opportunity of visiting the NASA Food Lab at the JSC and meet Vickie L. Kloeris, Shuttle and ISS Food Systems Manager. The Food Lab is part of the Habitability and Human Factors Branch of the NASA and develops food systems for all U.S. human space missions and food processing for advanced life support systems. All the food for the American Menu on the ISS is developed, tested, produced and packed at the Food Lab, Johnson Space Center.
In the end of the two week long stay we exhibited our concepts at Johnson Space Center and received feedback in open discussions with NASA employees.5. The Value: How does your project earn its keep in the world? What is its value? What is its impact? (Social, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, environmental, cultural (see larger cultural question below), gladdening, etc.)
If you are designing for a institution like NASA, you always design for really special occasions and for a very limited group of people. Our project could help to aliment astronauts on a mission to mars, which would have a big impact on the human society as explorers. It is always difficult to say what impact space exploration has on our live on earth since it costs a lot of money and does not really change anything down here. But history has shown that apart from a emotional benefit for humanity as bold explorers of the unknown (wasn’t Columbus voyage across the Atlantic quite uncalled-for as well) NASA researches had come up with many invention that actually had a big impact on our lives. Computer chips, water filters or medical CAT scanner which searches the human body for tumours or other abnormalities all have been developed by NASA.
We think that the technology we used in our project could be used in other extreme environments like natural disasters or crisis regions on earth as well. Also a home use of hydroponic pillows could be a opportunity to engage people to grow more food in their homes.
We humans have a very special relation to our diet. It does not only provide us with sufficient nutrition to keep our body running, it also expresses our human nature as a social animal.
Looking back in human evolution eating meat and cooking has made us what we are today by providing a better source of energy that allowed a secure diet and there with a steady development of a bigger brain size. Eating and sitting together around a fire is deeply anchored in the collective mind. It is one of the first and the most important social gathering among humans and expresses our individuality and culture. Still nowadays for many people the ritual of eating together is the only time at the day where they sit down in a group and share their experiences.
Food triggers all our senses, satisfies our body and mind, provides a connection to nature, gives us memories from our childhood and can support our mental health. Conserving those emotions for the astronauts far out in space has been the goal of our project,
The project was addressed not only to the nutrition of the astronauts, but mainly to their emotional health. The idea was that our solution is an addition to the daily diet of the astronauts, that reconnects them emotionally back to earth while spending years in space. For now, our project focuses on the extreme environment of space exploration. But like said before NASA research always has the possibility to develop new technologies that can be used in many different areas on a global level.