We take for granted that we live on a planet rich in life. More than 14 million identified species, high biological diversity on Earth is simply amazing. We depend on this diversity for food and resources, which in turn allow us to flourish and spread across the planet. However, once you leave the limits of the fragile of Earth’s atmosphere, and this symbiotic relationship will cease to exist.
Will we be able to live beyond Earth?
In the book “the Beginning of infinity” physicist David Deutsch offers readers to conduct the following thought experiment: imagine that the universe is divided into cubes the size of our Solar system. Will look like a typical cube?
It will be very different from the one in which we are. In fact, a typical cube should be so dark that if it exploded supernova, we would glimpse saw. A typical cube will have a temperature of 2.7 Kelvin, which is enough to freeze everything, and each cube will be approximately one atom — such purity vacuum even we on Earth can not create.
Thus, in the cold, dark and empty universe, the Earth is not typical; our house — a rare and precious oasis.
This cosmic perspective reminds us of how we need to cherish and protect life on Earth, our “pale blue dot”. She also reminds us of the hostile conditions in the rest of the space.
Being a cosmic view, we believe it is necessary to explore and settle other parts of the Solar system and the galaxy as a whole. Over the last decade we have made tremendous progress in space exploration. And yet, many scientists are asking: is it possible to become independent from other resources of the Universe, which is mostly colder, darker and more hostile in any place other than our planet?
Growing food in space
To create a self-sustaining human habitat in space, you need many components. We need to understand where to get the raw materials for the construction of future cities, how to generate effective energy and how to access sources of supply. Organizations like SpaceX, Blue Origin and NASA continues to push back the final frontier, however, and access to resources in space becoming more urgent. The farther from the Solar system we travel, the harder it will be to rely on Land as a source of resources.
If we talk about food, recently we have witnessed an amazing progress. Lander of China “Chang’e-4” successfully raised seeds on the dark side of the moon. Because of the difficult conditions the plants soon died, but the incident is amazing.
Our ability to create a self-sustaining ecosystem — no matter how small — on the moon can be a huge help to future missions. For example, a NASA mission to Mars will use the moon as a potential “staging post” on the way to Mars. CEO of Blue Origins, Jeff Bezos is also configured to create permanent settlements on the moon. What we learn from our attempts to grow plants on the moon, can also be applied to other colonies, such as colonies on Mars.
Not for the first time astronauts grow food in space. In August 2015, astronauts on the International space station has tried the first vegetables grown in space. Garden space on the ISS, known as the Lada-VPU-P3R, very similar to a greenhouse: light and water in this module are automatically controlled.
These efforts are supported by genetically modified plants and seeds that are better adapted for survival in space. Seeds in space needs to resist ultraviolet and cosmic radiation, low pressure, harsh temperatures and microgravity; change their genetics and allows you to overcome all that. Genetic engineering, in fact, could become an instrument of the liberation of humanity from dependence on resources: it will allow rocket fuel, and drugs in isolation from Earth.
NASA is also exploring the possibility of 3D printing food in space. Last year the Agency allowed the astronauts to 3D print pizza in space.
One of the main motivators of mankind in space exploration was the desire to liberate his kind from the life only on Earth. According to science fiction writer Robert Heinlein, “the Earth is just too small and fragile to the human race kept all the eggs.” Life on Earth is in the grip of existential threats such as supernova, nuclear war or asteroids. Building colonies in other parts of the Solar system and the Universe will serve as an insurance policy for humanity.
Many science fiction writers have explored the idea of a “generation ship” or interstellar ark. Such a self-sustaining ship could serve as a small human colony and reach the destination within a few centuries or thousands of years. The initial inhabitants of the ship would grow old and die, leaving their descendants for future trips. So the independent space colonies could save mankind from extinction and allow us to spread your views on the rest of the Universe.
Ultimately, the projects involving the use of resources of space — such as growing plants on the moon are critical steps on the way to the future of space exploration and humanity.