Newswise – 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 biologist Arthur Teixeira. If we build a base on the moon, we?ve going to have a trash problem there too. Teixeira thinks the solution in space will be the same as it is here on Earth: recycling and compost.
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 special space version of Sequential Batch Anaerobic Composting (SEBAC) that is currently used in landfills. That system turns waste into compost by cycling material among different containers.
The SEBAC 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.
In the excitement of traveling in space, it’s hard to have to plan for mundane problems like trash disposal. It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it.
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