Future Astronauts Could Enjoy Fresh Vegetables From an Autonomous Orbital Greenhouse

Growing trays inside EDEN ISS. Credit: DLR

If humanity is going to become a spare-faring and interplanetary species, one of the most important things will be the ability of astronauts to see to their needs independently. Relying on regular shipments of supplies from Earth is not only inelegant; it’s also impractical and very expensive. For this reason, scientists are working to create technologies that would allow astronauts to provide for their own food, water, and breathable air.

To this end, a team of researchers from Tomsk Polytechnic University in central Russia – along with scientists from other universities and research institutes in the region – recently developed a prototype for an orbital greenhouse. Known as the Orbital Biological Automatic Module, this device allows plants to be grown and cultivated in space and could be heading to the International Space Station (ISS) in the coming years.

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Future Designs: Robotic Mars Greenhouse, Teleporting Fridge

"Little Prince" robot greenhouse. Credit: Electrolux

Now THIS is what I’m talking about! Every year Electrolux holds a competition for students to design concepts for future appliances, and they’ve just announced the eight finalists. My favs: a robotic greenhouse for Mars and a teleporting refrigerator. Le Petit Prince (Little Prince) is a robotic greenhouse concept that is specially designed to help the future exploration and expanding population when we colonize Mars. This intelligent robot carries and cares for a plant inside its glass container, which is functionally mounted on a four-legged self-transporting pod. Not only does it search for the optimum place to receive enough sunlight and other nutrients, it also send reports of its movements and developments to its fellow greenhouse robots through wireless communication. It was designed by Martin Miklica, from the Brno University of Technology in the Czech Republic. He said he was inspired by the book The Naked Sun by Isaac Asimov and R2-D2 from Star Wars (and surely Wall-E had something to do with this, too.)

See video of Le Petit Prince, below, and of the teleporting fridge.

This one I can’t wait for: The Teleport Fridge by Dulyawat Wongnawa, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand. Once we figure out how to beam things up, the Teleport Fridge teleports food, eliminating the time and distance a person has to travel to buy fresh groceries or products from a store or farm. Using touch-screen technology as the interface for the teleportation process, the Teleport Fridge simply teleports food to compartments in its refrigeration and freezer units. If the food spoils, it teleports it to the compost pile. Very cool, but it takes the adventure out of opening those containers in the back of the fridge.

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See the other six design concepts and vote for your favorite here.

Source: Electrolux Design Lab