A Trip to Mars Needs Waste

Jul 22, 2005

On the long space trip from Earth to Mars "the crew won't be able to get by with a bag lunch and Portapotty," says Arthur Teixeira, a professor of agricultural and biological engineering at the University of Florida. Teixeira presented a plan for how NASA could deal with waste deposal during such a voyage at this week's Institute of Food Technologists annual meeting.

Teixeira estimates the Mars trip would take six to eight months. The ship would likely remain on the planet for 18 months before Mars and Earth's orbits would bring them close enough together for the return trip. In all, the six-person crew would be off the Earth's surface for about three years.

Teixeira's plan hinges on patented technology developed by the university called Sequential Batch Anaerobic Composting (SEBAC) that is currently used in landfills. That system turns waste into compost by cycling material among different containers.

Adapting the technology for space travel raises numerous problems, the obvious one being zero gravity to move material among processing containers. The SEBAC II, developed with space travel in mind, solves this by using additional receptacles and several pumps. The pumps move the fermenting waste among the various chambers to create compost.

The SEBAC II system would compost human waste, inedible food material such as plant stems and roots, and paper used for things like moist toilettes used by the crew in the place of baths or showers.

Teixeira says the spaceship would probably carry enough food in reusable packages to sustain the crew during the trip to Mars. During a portion of that time, crews would collect the processed waste for use as compost upon arrival and established a greenhouse to grow foods.

While on Mars, the crew would deliberately create leftovers at each meal, which in turn would complete the cycle when stored in the reusable packages for the return trip.

Copyright 2005 by Space Daily, Distributed by United Press International

Explore further: Scars on Mars from 2012 rover landing fade—usually

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Image: Launch of first crewed Gemini flight

Mar 24, 2015

In a span of 20 months from March 1965 to November 1966, NASA developed, tested and flew transformative capabilities and cutting-edge technologies in the Gemini program that paved the way for not only Apollo, ...

Let's send a private mission to Europa, expert says

Feb 09, 2015

Jupiter's icy moon Europa puzzles astrobiologists and sparks the imagination of extraterrestrial life seekers. It is believed that the moon has a subsurface ocean of liquid water, where life could possibly ...

Mars is the next step for humanity – we must take it

Feb 09, 2015

Elon Musk has built a US$12 billion company in an endeavour to pave the way to Mars for humanity. He insists that Mars is a "long-term insurance policy" for "the light of consciousness" in the face of cli ...

Recommended for you

Europe resumes Galileo satnav deployment (Update)

Mar 27, 2015

Europe resumed deployment of its beleaguered Galileo satnav programme on Friday, launching a pair of satellites seven months after a rocket malfunction sent two multi-million euro orbiters awry.

More evidence for groundwater on Mars

Mar 27, 2015

Monica Pondrelli and colleagues investigated the Equatorial Layered Deposits (ELDs) of Arabia Terra in Firsoff crater area, Mars, to understand their formation and potential habitability. On the plateau, ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.