Friday, February 21, 2014

GMG's Friday Find: Greenhouses On Mars? It Could Happen.

Photo Credit: NASA (artist rendition)
Mars - where no plant has gone before!

Now that Mars is on the radar for a NASA destination, it's time to get serious about space greenhouses. Research has been going on for decades on the International Space Station and among astronauts on Skylab, and these efforts have paid off.

Plants offer space travelers a wide range of psychological and practical benefits. Long gone are the days when astronauts and cosmonauts dined on unpalatable food that came in tubes. Now fresh fruits and vegetables are carefully packaged to avoid spoilage, but due to lack of refrigeration these foods must be consumed quickly.

Enter greenhouses in space that would grow fresh vegetables to enhance the diets of voyagers and provide the added benefits of 'gardening' even in space. As on earth, gardening provides a vehicle to reduce stress and improve moods, and I'm just guessing there may be a little stress traveling to and then hanging out at a space station.

Here on earth we have learned that plants in the workplace really make a difference. People are calmer, happier and more productive with plants than without. This transfers to space stations as well where the cold, bland and technically crowded environment can be uplifted with natural colors. Plants help the interior space appear larger and allows astronauts to relax their eyes and minds.

Photo Credit: NASA
Space greenhouses can also help improve the air quality for space travelers by absorbing pollutants and refreshing the air with oxygen. This will help combat noxious smells in space, which some NASA crew mates describe as somewhere between the smell of a wine cellar to old gym clothes. Plant scents can replace the nasty fumes with earth smells which can trigger emotional memories as an important link to earth.

Here on earth we are accustomed to the cycles of the days and seasons; space life lacks this rhythm which often results in sleep disturbances.  Just watching plants grow over time can help mark the passage of time for space travelers, connecting them to a familiar earthly rhythm of life.

We've learned from research  how plants benefit our indoor spaces, cleaning the air from pollutants, enriching our interior spaces with oxygen, calming our stress and improving moods, even helping us think more clearly. Certainly the next progression, transporting and growing plants in space, will come to fruition.

Beam me up Scotty!

Garden Media Group