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Salad for Astronauts


Development and Testing of Space Salad Machine Prototype and Elaboration of the Grown Plants to Food Conversion Technology

Tech Area / Field

  • AGR-FOD/Food & Nutrition/Agriculture

3 Approved without Funding

Registration date

Leading Institute
Russian Academy of Sciences / Institute of Biomedical Problems, Russia, Moscow

Supporting institutes

  • NIIIT (Pulse Techniques), Russia, Moscow


  • Bionetics, USA, FL, Kennedy Space Center

Project summary

During the period of 2002 – 2004 the project #2137 entitled “The development and testing of a plant growth technology for continuous cultivation of plants in biological life support systems,” which was managed by Dr. Yu. A. Berkovich, was suppoted by the ISTC. This project has to elucidate the main problems concerning intensive conveyer crop production in the microgravity conditions and to develop the new technology for greens growing aboard the spacecrafts and stations. This technology provided maximal specific productivity of greens per consumed resources in ground experiments. Results from Project #2137 helps us to consider that the proposed technology of a conveyer type cultivation of crops on a cylindrical planting surface is attractive in developing a salad machine for a Martian expedition and for orbiting stations that has a series of advantages.

Much of the work has been presented at various international conferences (ISTC conference “Future systems and technology in research and exploration of space”, 2003; ICES 2002, 2004, 2005, COSPAR Assemblies 2002, 2004 and others). Also results were presented during a seminar at NASA Kennedy Space Center, which brought out interest among the researchers.

Problems associated with creating a facility for production of vitamin rich vegetables onboard manned spacecraft has taken on a new meaning relative to the previous years concerning manned space programs and with an impulse from a speech by President G. Bush on January 14 2004 when he discussed plans concerning exploration of space as a NASA program. Similarly representatives of Russia, European Union, China and other countries made it clear that they will also be preparing for a Mars mission. Presently, however, scenarios concerning these expeditions have not been completely determined, yet a majority of the scientists believe a “salad machine” would be an effective way to enhance the dietary as well as the psycho-social environment onboard a manned spacecraft destined for Mars.

The goal of the proposed project is to develop and test the space conveyer salad machine prototype for application in microgravity environment and the technology associated with plant to food conversion and preparation, and to demonstrate the technology through ground-based modeled spaceflight environment.

Scope of Activities and Approaches:

The following tasks will be fulfilled:

  • selection of various parameters necessary for the design of a space salad machine;
  • development and fabrication of the conveyer space salad machine prototype based on the requirements that have been levied by the manned spacecraft programs;
  • conducting joint operational testing of the salad machine prototype and analysis of both quantitative and qualitative properties of the plant biomass grown in the salad machine during prolonged operations;
  • development of food preparatory technology for biomass grown in the salad machine and examining the affects of crops relative to regular supplementation to the diet and examining the micro flora and the functional state of the digestive system in a human organism;
  • development of recommendations on the quantity and time course the supplement doses of salad biomass for food.

Research concerning the affects salad greens on the gastro-intestinal tract will be conducted with volunteers that will be selected at IMBP using standard procedures, complying with Russian regulations and present day bioethics.

Personnel Competence.

Researchers from two institutes will participate in this project:

  • Institute of Biomedical Problems (IMBP);
  • Research Institute of Pulse Technique (NIIIT).

Scientists from IMBP participating in this project are considered to be leading researchers in Russia as well as the world in the area of bio-regenerative life support systems and development of plant growth technology in artificial environments. Yu. Berkovich, Project Manager, has been working more over 20 years now in the field. The Project # MB-38 in frame of Mir-NASA contract NAS -15-10110 had been managed by Dr. Berkovich in 1995-98 as well as ISTC Project # 2137 – in 2002-2005. Dr. Berkovich is a principal co-author of "Svet" space greenhouse that was operational on the Mir station during 10 years and besides he is an author of the first conveyer-type cylindrical plant growth chambers "Phytocycle" and "Vitacycle" and of more over 85 published articles and inventions. Dr. Berkovich has been working at Kennedy Space Centre like a National Research Council Associate Senior Researcher during period of 2001 – 2002. Other involved co-workers are leading specialists responsible from Russian side for ISS space crews diet.

The researchers from NIIIT have significant experience in developing complex experimental systems and measuring tool in the area of military technology. Besides they have been involved in ISTC Project # 2137 during the last 3 years. This qualified them to be able to successfully design and fabricate the complex lighting and control systems for the ground based mockups of the cylindrical conveyer type plant growth facilities “Phytocycle SD” and "Phytoconveyer". In addition, the NIIIT researchers have conducted the long term experiments relative to growing crops under ionizing irradiation modeling the affects of chronic loads of radiation at ISS.

Expected Results.

Developed technology of a conveyer type cultivation of crops on a cylindrical planting will allow demonstrating its advantages by means of a "Salad Machine" prototype building. Main advantages of this experimental unit in comparison to the known analogs will be as following:

  • increased specific plant productivity in terms of consumed resources (power, volume, and man-hours) and regular providing fresh salad every few days and therefore minimize expense on the biomass storage and vitamins loses;
  • continuous survey of the conveyer crop will be an effective approach to enhancing the crew’s psychological climate inside space vehicle.

Results Application:the results will be a base of developing the prototype of the conveyer effective salad machine for ISS and Martian craft. The fabricated unit will be tested in the IMBP in the ground experiment concerning Martian expedition scenario.

The developed methods and hardware will also have commercial applicability, for example, as an all-season domestic source of producing organic salads in remote areas whether in cold regions or high altitude regions including remote meteorological and underwater habitats.


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