A team of University of Colorado graduate students are developing a food gardening system for deep space and potential Martian colonies. The project is an entry in NASA’s eXploration HABitat (X-Hab) Academic Innovation Challenge, and is called “Plants Anywhere: Plants Growing in Free Habitat Spaces.” The project is based on two key components: SmartPots, or SPOTS, for growing plants, and a Remotely Operated Gardening Rover, or ROGR, which travels around the extraterrestrial habitat tending to them.
The system works like this: the SPOTS provide food plants with a small, custom-designed, individual hydroponic growth chamber. This is fitted with computerized sensors and systems to monitor each plant’s progress. The idea is to have dozens of SPOTS dotted throughout a space habitat. Each SPOT can be adjusted for light, temperature, pH and humidity to suit the plant as it grows, and water is recycled through the unit. The feedback from the SPOTS is relayed to ROGR, who will come and tend to a plant’s needs as required. ROGR is a robot on wheels with a mini forklift on front, so it can move SPOTS if necessary too.
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