The space station has already developed a preliminary plan for a Mars mission in 2030 to collect samples and better analyze the planet.
NASA engineers and scientists are now developing systems to harness resources like water, which should be available in some regions of the Martian or lunar surface, to support long-lasting missions. "The approach uses plants to scrub carbon dioxide, while providing food and oxygen".
Researchers are developing systems that can support missions that span for months or years. All factors are carefully being considered in the development phase such as air revitalization, water recycling, nutrition, and wastes.
The system is hydroponic, so no soil is needed. The water is oxygenated and given nutrient salts before watering the plants. Air in the system is recycled too. The CO2 astronauts exhale will be fed through the greenhouse so the plants can photosynthesize and generate oxygen. This "regenerative life emotionally supportive network" utilizes plants and LEDs to reproduce what's basically a smaller than usual Earth condition, as indicated by design boom. They're cylindrical, measuring 18 feet in length and more than 8 feet in diameter. Giacomelli added that they will also develop computer models to simulate the work they're doing, to automatically control the environment and provide a stable level of oxygen. "The entire system of the lunar greenhouse does represent, in a small way, the biological systems that are here on Earth".
A key part of a system like this is knowing what astronauts will have to bring with them, and what resources they can find at their destination.
According to New York Post, the prototypes are meant to be deployable on demand and will use water found on the Moon/Red Planet to grow crops. Astronauts have to be protected from radiation, and so will crops. There would be a requirement of specialised lighting in this case. The process is called a bioregenerative life support system and it replicates the way plants grown on Earth. Scientists have had success both with LED lighting and light concentrators that use fiber optic bundles to channel natural sunlight from the outside.
Scientists believe solar light could be captured with light concentrators that are created to track the sun and then convey the light to the chamber employing fiber optic bundles.
These systems are not NASA's first experience at growing crops in space. A few sorts of plants, including vegetables and blooms, have been developed on the International Space Station. The first project of this kind was NASA's Veggie Plant Growth System.
Earth has well-established systems for sustaining life, and this project is all about taking some of that to distant destinations in space.