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Aeroponics in Outer Space

February 17, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 199

Aeroponics provides a clean, efficient, and rapid method of food production. Crops can be planted without soil and harvested year-round. In aeroponics, plants roots are suspended in air, periodically sprayed with a nutrient rich water based solution and then allowed to drain. By alternating wet and dry cycles, the roots are kept moist but also exposed to an abundant supply of oxygen leading to much faster growth than traditional gardening methods. Aeroponics systems reduce water and fertilizer usage by over 90% and by avoiding exposure to soil-born diseases eliminate pesticide usage altogether.

These benefits, along with the great reduction in weight that is achieved by eliminating dirt and significantly reducing the amount of water required for plant growth, are reasons this high-tech method of food production has attracted the interest and support of NASA. On of the hurdles to be cleared for long distance space travel and even colonies on the Moon or nearby planets is finding a means for crews to manage self- sustaining supplies of food and oxygen.

Through aeroponics, this goal becomes a realistic possibility and humans and plants can become best friends in deep space. Humans consume oxygen and release carbon dioxide. Plants return the favor by consuming carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. Humans can use edible parts of plants for nourishment, while human waste and inedible plant matter can be converted into the nutrient solution used in aeroponics for plant growth. The plants consume the nutrients and return clean water to the system. So aeroponics is a potential source of food, fresh oxygen, clean drinking water and together with humans can create a closed and self-sustaining ecological system.

While aeroponics has not yet been used in long distance space travel, like many other aspects of NASA's technological research, spin-off designs are now being used in commercial agricultural applications for food production. This technology is used to relieve hunger in parts of the world with limited access to arable land and to enable city dwellers to grow their own supply of fresh fruits and vegetables. Aeroponics has also led to advances in cloning of plants from cuttings. Numerous plants which were previously considered difficult, or impossible, to propagate from cuttings can now be replicated simply from a single stem. This is a boon to green houses attempting to propagate their best specimens. With a basic aeroponics setup, any interested individual can now clone plants. Finally, crops can also be grown in half the time required by traditional agricultural methods and require far less labor to harvest.

Whether in outer space or on Earth, aeroponics has the potential to become an enabling technology in providing the essentials for human life.

To read more about aeroponics click on the following links Aeroponics Systems and Aeroponics Designs

Source: EzineArticles
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