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#1 2004-02-25 10:03:57

CaptNano
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From: Houston, Tx
Registered: 2004-02-25
Posts: 1
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Re: Greenhouses for Mars Greenhouses for Mars

[color=#000000:post_uid0]Greenhouses for Mars

When humans go to the Moon or Mars, they'll probably take plants with them. NASA-supported researchers are learning how greenhouses work on other planets.
   


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February 25, 2004: Confused? Then you're just like plants in a greenhouse on Mars.

No greenhouses exist there yet, of course. But long-term explorers, on Mars, or the moon, will need to grow plants: for food, for recycling, for replenishing the air. And plants aren't going to understand that off-earth environment at all. It's not what they evolved for, and it's not what they're expecting.

But in some ways, it turns out, they're probably going to like it better! Some parts of it, anyway.

Right: An artist's concept of greenhouses on Mars. [Larger image]

"When you get to the idea of growing plants on the moon, or on Mars," explains molecular biologist Rob Ferl, director of Space Agriculture Biotechnology Research and Education at the University of Florida, "then you have to consider the idea of growing plants in as reduced an atmospheric pressure as possible."

There are two reasons. First, it'll help reduce the weight of the supplies that need to be lifted off the earth. Even air has mass.


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Second, Martian and lunar greenhouses must hold up in places where the atmospheric pressures are, at best, less than one percent of Earth-normal. Those greenhouses will be easier to construct and operate if their interior pressure is also very low -- perhaps only one-sixteenth of Earth normal.

The problem is, in such extreme low pressures, plants have to work hard to survive. "Remember, plants have no evolutionary preadaption to hypobaria," says Ferl. There's no reason for them to have learned to interpret the biochemical signals induced by low pressure. And, in fact, they don't. They misinterpret them.

Low pressure makes plants act as if they're drying out.

In recent experiments, supported by NASA's Office of Biological and Physical research, Ferl's group exposed young growing plants to pressures of one-tenth Earth normal for about twenty-four hours. In such a low-pressure environment, water is pulled out through the leaves very quickly, and so extra water is needed to replenish it.

But, says Ferl, the plants were given all the water they needed. Even the relative humidity was kept at nearly 100 percent. Nevertheless, the plants' genes that sensed drought were still being activated. Apparently, says Ferl, the plants interpreted the accelerated water movement as drought stress, even though there was no drought at all.

Left: An experiment related to Ferl's: Lettuce growing in a low-pressure dome at the Kennedy Space Center. [More]

That's bad. Plants are wasting their resources if they expend them trying to deal with a problem that isn't even there. For example, they might close up their stomata -- the tiny holes in their leaves from which water escapes. Or they might drop their leaves altogether. But, those responses aren't necessarily appropriate.

Fortunately, once the plants' responses are understood, researchers can adjust them. "We can make biochemical alterations that change the level of hormones," says Ferl. "We can increase or decrease them to affect the plants' response to its environment."

And, intriguingly, studies have found benefits to a low pressure environment. The mechanism is essentially the same as the one that causes the problems, explains Ferl. In low pressure, not only water, but also plant hormones are flushed from the plant more quickly. So a hormone, for example, that causes plants to die of old age might move through the organism before it takes effect.

Right: Green beans onboard the International Space Station. Ferl's research will improve greenhouses not only on other planets, but also on spaceships. [More]

Astronauts aren't the only ones who will benefit from this research. By controlling air pressure, in, say, an Earth greenhouse or a storage bin, it may be possible to influence certain plant behaviors. For example, if you store fruit at low pressure, it lasts much longer. That's because of the swift elimination of the hormone ethylene, which causes fruit to ripen, and then rot. Farm produce trucked from one coast to the other in low pressure containers might arrive at supermarkets as fresh as if it had been picked that day.

Much work remains to be done. Ferl's team looked at the way plants react to a short period of low pressure. Still to be determined is how plants react to spending longer amounts of time -- like their entire life -- in hypobaric conditions. Ferl also hopes to examine plants at a wider variety of pressures. There are whole suites of genes that are activated at different pressures, he says, and this suggests a surprisingly complex response to low pressure environments.

To learn more about this genetic response, Ferl's group are bioengineering plants whose genes glow green when activated. In addition they are using DNA microchip technology to examine as many as twenty-thousand genes at a time in plants exposed to low pressures.

Left: Rob Ferl in his laboratory at the Center for Space Agricultural Biotechnology Research and Education. [More]

Plants will play an extraordinarily important role in allowing humans to explore destinations like Mars and the Moon. They'll will provide food, oxygen and even good cheer to astronauts far from home. To make the best use of plants off-Earth, "we have to understand the limits for growing them at low pressure," says Ferl. "And then we have to understand why those limits exist."

Ferl's group is making progress. "The exciting part of this is, we're beginning to understand what it will take to really use plants in our life support systems." When the time comes to visit Mars, plants in the greenhouse might not be so confused after all.

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Credits & Contacts
Author: Karen Miller
Responsible NASA official: Ron Koczor
   

Production Editor: Dr. Tony Phillips
Curator: Bryan Walls
Media Relations: Steve Roy

The Science Directorate at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center sponsors the Science@NASA web sites. The mission of Science@NASA is to help the public understand how exciting NASA research is and to help NASA scientists fulfill their outreach responsibilities.

more information

NASA's Office of Biological and Physical Research -- supports studies of fundamental biology for the benefit of people in space and on Earth

Leafy Green Astronauts -- (Science@NASA) NASA scientists are learning how to grow plants in space. Such crops will eventually take their place alongside people, microbes and machines in self-contained habitats for astronauts.

Green Generations -- (Science@NASA) It looks like an ordinary pea pod. And it is. That's what so amazing ... because this pod lives in space.

The Physics of Space Gardens -- (Science@NASA) It could only happen in space: A tiny bubble of air hangs suspended inside a droplet of water. The droplet rests in the cup of a delicate green leaf, yet the stalk doesn't bend at all.

The Mars Greenhouse Project -- (NASA) a research project related to Ferl's at the Kennedy Space Center

University of Florida press releases about Ferl's research: #1, #2

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#2 2004-02-25 11:28:55

dicktice
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From: Nova Scotia, Canada
Registered: 2002-11-01
Posts: 1,764

Re: Greenhouses for Mars Greenhouses for Mars

[color=#000000:post_uid0]Just imagine how beneficial such research might be, right here on Earth--for example, for growing produce up there on the Tibetan Plateau. Contrary-wise, how handy that same mileau might be, for doing the reasearch in the first place (assuming Earth-gee wouldn't be a factor). Talk about win/win![/color:post_uid0]

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#3 2005-03-19 06:35:00

srmeaney
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From: 18 tiwi gdns rd, TIWI NT 0810
Registered: 2005-03-18
Posts: 976

Re: Greenhouses for Mars Greenhouses for Mars

[color=#000000:post_uid0]that is why you need to grow food at the bottom of an atmospheric pressure well. Those little rain forests represent the only future for food production on Mars that doesn't involve edible moss that thrives in a low pressure altitude.[/color:post_uid0]

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#4 2005-03-19 16:22:31

MarsDog
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From: vancouver canada
Registered: 2004-03-24
Posts: 852

Re: Greenhouses for Mars Greenhouses for Mars

[color=#000000:post_uid0]Aquaculture comes to mind. Seaweed, algea and guppies.

Could tomatoes be adapted to grow underwater ?[/color:post_uid0]

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#5 2005-03-19 17:51:30

chat
Member
From: Ontario Canada
Registered: 2003-10-23
Posts: 371

Re: Greenhouses for Mars Greenhouses for Mars

[color=#000000:post_uid0]Why build giant greenhouses when plants only need a few inches or feet of room to grow.?

Growing plants in clear tubes only just wider than the plants grow high will allow you to grow them at whatever pressure they like.

Expansion of the system is just adding new clear tubes to existing tube system, or building another plant tube system.

A fan at one end could easily recycle the air around the connected tubes, or from the human structure through the plant tubes and back.

Aqua culture can be treated in the same way, 6" of water in a 12" wide tube.
In my opinion aqua culture is a must for food production and for waste recycling, water also is a great medium to store solar energy for heating and cooling.

Tubes will have no problem dealing with low exterior to high interior pressures as the circular structure of a tube is well suited to pressure.

The human structures can be whatever size we like with plants growing everywhere indoors to keep the people happy.

Growing plants at lower that earth G is another not well understood set of problems that also cause plants to think they are drying out, and a set of other bizarre effects.

In a tube system spun at 1 G both problems could be solved.

Add reflected light only and a covered radiation shielded top and you can solve the radiation problems on both mars and the moon.

Just my thoughts though smile[/color:post_uid0]


The universe isn't being pushed apart faster.
It is being pulled faster towards the clumpy edge.

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#6 2005-03-20 06:57:53

srmeaney
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From: 18 tiwi gdns rd, TIWI NT 0810
Registered: 2005-03-18
Posts: 976

Re: Greenhouses for Mars Greenhouses for Mars

[color=#000000:post_uid0]Plants in a long sealed plastic tube that the light can pass through. as your enclosed atmosphere expands up the tube during the day and cools and contracts during the night, your plants will experience a reasonable climate cycle if you grow them in decent air pressure.

Sounds Like an expensive way to mass produce food.

Still probably more efficient to dig a two mile deep hole and grow your rainforest at the bottom. Unless of course we dam the Vallis Marineris at it's mouth and hope that the air pressure builds.

'Be a part of the new frontier in the newly available Valley of Explorers.  Breathable atmosphere within the limits of the valley. Farm plots available! Inquire with the department of Colonial Development at your nearest Galactic Commonwealth Embassy Now!
Your Freedom is just a change of citizenship away.'[/color:post_uid0]

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#7 2005-03-20 15:32:16

chat
Member
From: Ontario Canada
Registered: 2003-10-23
Posts: 371

Re: Greenhouses for Mars Greenhouses for Mars

[color=#000000:post_uid0]srmeaney,

One big advantage to the spun tube system is that it works as well on the moon as it does on mars and in the journey to mars, and no need to guess how the plants respond on either destination.

It can easily be designed as a multi purpose food plant air and waste system wherever you take it.

If it works on the moon you wont have to do anything special to know it will work on mars or on the way to mars.

A 2 mile deep ditch on mars will probably solve the plant radiation and atmospheric problems at mars, but 1/3 g will still be a Martian plant and animal life problem.
I suspect even aquatic plants and animals well adapted to a liquid environment on earth will still have a host of hormone and genetic problems at 1/3 g on mars.

Even if you don't spin the tubes it makes sense to down size the structure size for plants, smaller amounts of materials to do any job is a good thing for any colony.[/color:post_uid0]


The universe isn't being pushed apart faster.
It is being pulled faster towards the clumpy edge.

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#8 2005-03-21 04:15:21

srmeaney
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From: 18 tiwi gdns rd, TIWI NT 0810
Registered: 2005-03-18
Posts: 976

Re: Greenhouses for Mars Greenhouses for Mars

[color=#000000:post_uid0]When we talk about spun tubes, we are refering to a centrifuge? I thought we were discussing the storage of plants in earth air pressures, 50% moisture, all nutrinets enclosed with the occasional replenishment?

Yes gravity is a problem. the ability of plants and animals to adapt will be difficult. This is why we must consider alternative nutrition sources. While Algae and Snails may be the best alternative (I'm not that keen on Soylent Green), Sugarcane (a good CO2 scrubber which uses it to produce sugars) and frog will be somewhat more popular a food source (not by much though).[/color:post_uid0]

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#9 2005-03-21 04:55:36

chat
Member
From: Ontario Canada
Registered: 2003-10-23
Posts: 371

Re: Greenhouses for Mars Greenhouses for Mars

[color=#000000:post_uid0]srmeaney,

A centrifuge of plants is correct.
If i was going to guess at what plants need to survive and propagate without problems.
My guess would be .75 g and .75 earth pressure. (educated guess)

I think on any extended stay the people will also need to spend time in a centrifuge as the lower G on mars or the moon will take its toll on the people after time.

I wish the ISS would do a few long term experiments on 1/6 and 1/3 g on plants.
So little has been done on what happens to plants other than 2g studies.

Lower gravity might be much less of a problem than i expect, or it might be such a problem that spinning tubes are the only way to colonies anywhere.

Solient green doesn't sound to palatable, but its better than solient blue ( blahh phooey) ( damn dirty apes) *lol*[/color:post_uid0]


The universe isn't being pushed apart faster.
It is being pulled faster towards the clumpy edge.

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#10 2005-03-21 09:16:56

dicktice
Member
From: Nova Scotia, Canada
Registered: 2002-11-01
Posts: 1,764

Re: Greenhouses for Mars Greenhouses for Mars

[color=#000000:post_uid0]I gather that potatoes would be just about ideal: Lots and lots of varieties still known only in Chile, to choose from in that hostile climate of southern South America. The "roots" because of their mass (being spuds) should be easy to encourage "downwards" from the leafy plant parts supported by netting stretched normal to the light source, in the weak gravity simulated by centrifuging, perhaps only during the germinating stage of growth (?) I seem to remember that the leaves are good oxygen producers, as well. I could look it up....[/color:post_uid0]

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#11 2005-03-22 15:32:05

srmeaney
Member
From: 18 tiwi gdns rd, TIWI NT 0810
Registered: 2005-03-18
Posts: 976

Re: Greenhouses for Mars Greenhouses for Mars

[color=#000000:post_uid0]Does any one know whether you could grow Jellyfish in a Microgravity environment under 50% moisture content. If so could you grow plants in the same environment (Particularly if the moisture was your nutrient requirement)?[/color:post_uid0]

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#12 2005-03-23 22:32:12

srmeaney
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From: 18 tiwi gdns rd, TIWI NT 0810
Registered: 2005-03-18
Posts: 976

Re: Greenhouses for Mars Greenhouses for Mars

[color=#000000:post_uid0]So you want a centrifuge

Drive it with a windmill or if you prefer new tech, an air scoop designed to increase air pressure and focus that force on a turbine. Considering the portable gravity generator is a long way off, you must make do with whats available.

If humans must spend time in a centrifuge while on Mars, then you want it during sleep cycle.[/color:post_uid0]

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#13 2005-03-25 14:12:11

DonPanic
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From: Paris in Astrolia
Registered: 2004-02-13
Posts: 595
Website

Re: Greenhouses for Mars Greenhouses for Mars

[color=#3300CC:post_uid0]LO
Haha, we have some conceptual and design advance in my studies for inflatable greenhouses,
where earthlike pressure is part of the system  big_smile

Works for every planet with no or low pressure atmosphere.
For Mars, chains of compressors are needed to catch and bring atmosphere to about 1 bar.
Advantages are low weight, reduced transportation volume,
little efforts to settle. cool

[i:post_uid0]Communicated by DonPanic, Director of the [b:post_uid0]FSAC, Froggy Space AgroBiz Corporation[/b:post_uid0] Inc [b:post_uid0]Research Labs[/b:post_uid0][/i:post_uid0] big_smile[/color:post_uid0]

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#14 2005-03-25 17:45:55

srmeaney
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From: 18 tiwi gdns rd, TIWI NT 0810
Registered: 2005-03-18
Posts: 976

Re: Greenhouses for Mars Greenhouses for Mars

[color=#000000:post_uid0]If gravity is going to be a problem for food production on Mars, then Food is going to remain the import commodity. Considering the most efficient colonization program will be living in the underground city of Olympus Mons where mining is going to be everyone's fave pasttime, Colonists will never see the sun again.
Yes food will definatly be brought in.[/color:post_uid0]

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#15 2005-03-26 01:41:43

DonPanic
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From: Paris in Astrolia
Registered: 2004-02-13
Posts: 595
Website

Re: Greenhouses for Mars Greenhouses for Mars

[color=#3300CC:post_uid0]LO

If gravity is going to be a problem for food production on Mars, then Food is going to remain the import commodity. (...)
Yes food will definatly be brought in.[/quote:post_uid0]

Added to inflatable greenhouses, water pipe bioreactors are in study.
Fish and shrimps, aquatic animals and flora adapt well to low gravity, orientation for these animals being given by water flow.
In the primary bioreactors cyanobacterias and phytoplancton colonies are grown up,
they feed on colons biological rejections and extract oxygen out of Mars and colon's CO2.
The over population of cyanobacterias is sent to secondary bioreactors where they serve a food for shrimps.
Part of the shrimps are sent in other bioreactors where they serve as food for carnivorous fishes, grown up toghether with comestible alguaes.

Mars food supply doesn't need to be imported

[i:post_uid0]Communicated by DonPanic, Director of the [b:post_uid0]FSAC, Froggy Space AgroBiz Corporation[/b:post_uid0] Inc [b:post_uid0]Research Labs[/b:post_uid0][/i:post_uid0] big_smile[/color:post_uid0]

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#16 2005-03-26 02:49:48

srmeaney
Member
From: 18 tiwi gdns rd, TIWI NT 0810
Registered: 2005-03-18
Posts: 976

Re: Greenhouses for Mars Greenhouses for Mars

[color=#000000:post_uid0]Clear Polymer Tubes (stationary & in centrifuge): for producing plants and organisms in confined, pressurised spaces.

Non centrifuge stages
input waste>

Snails and algae (used to break down waste)
insects and worms (used to further breakdown waste)
becomes food/fertilizer source>

plants (tubers grown in a mostly dark/dry environment)
fish (tank water used to provide nutrient source to plants)

Frankly, unless someone can come up with proof that the bottom end of the food supply on Mars will need a centrifuge to live in (Certainly Decompression to the PSI our crews will be operating at is going to be unhealthy, even for small organisms), there isn't a real need to take along a centrifuge.

Beyond the fishmeal and mash potato burgers and still-brew paint stripper, Pretty much all your high-end produce (meat, milk, cheese, bread mix, ect) will be imported.[/color:post_uid0]

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#17 2005-03-26 03:16:31

DonPanic
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From: Paris in Astrolia
Registered: 2004-02-13
Posts: 595
Website

Re: Greenhouses for Mars Greenhouses for Mars

[color=#3300CC:post_uid0]LO
Mars colonies cannot rely on food importations !
That means a permanent political stability from importation countries on Earth.
Too much of a bet.
Should an administration cut on Space programs for any reason, such as war, revolution or political chaos, environmental catastrophe,
space colonies would starve.
Therefore its absolutely vital to martian and any extra Earth settlement to rely 100% on self food production, whatever happens on Earth.
That's all ![/color:post_uid0]

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#18 2005-03-26 06:28:55

chat
Member
From: Ontario Canada
Registered: 2003-10-23
Posts: 371

Re: Greenhouses for Mars Greenhouses for Mars

[color=#000000:post_uid0]DonPanic,

I don't want to throw a cog into the wheel of progress, but everything I've seen written on low g plant experiments has been a total disaster.

At near 0 g on the shuttle and mir plants don't respond the same as they do at 1/3 g.

At 1/3 g   hormone, reproduction structures, transpiration, cell wall irregularities, water retention and water loss are just some of the problems that show up on even short term studies.

Also bacteria show some of the same problems at 1/3 g.

The blowup structures are great idea for any colony.
Having something that packs away to a small package, that can be a structure in a few hours makes a lot of sense especially on mars with a compressor.


srmeaney,

Tough to say if a centrifuge will be needed at all on mars.
If the plants can adapt to the lower G then no need for one exists, if not then only brief periods of time might be required to spin plants and people.

Maybe when they are both sleeping. smile

I think your right about the little organisms doing most of the recycling at mars.
And the aquatic environments will be a major part of food and cleaning.

Water Otter or beaver milk and cheeze, and rice bread mix all grown in the aquatic tanks. smile
And i thought goat cheeze sounded bad. *lol*[/color:post_uid0]


The universe isn't being pushed apart faster.
It is being pulled faster towards the clumpy edge.

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#19 2005-03-26 09:44:19

srmeaney
Member
From: 18 tiwi gdns rd, TIWI NT 0810
Registered: 2005-03-18
Posts: 976

Re: Greenhouses for Mars Greenhouses for Mars

[color=#000000:post_uid0]"Mars colonies cannot rely on food importations !
That means a permanent political stability from importation countries on Earth."-D

Unfortunatly, there are certain limits that will not be crossed. Anything beyond small plants and life forms produced for food (and waste reasons) will most likely out of the Question. Certainly food produced on Mars will require Earth Air pressure.
And Yes, while we dream of Martian Corn, Dairy Farms at the bottom of valleys, and that home on an alien range it may never be possible.
Colonization will require food supplied by earth on such scale that there must be both stability and cooperation. Despite the dreams of empire held by nations and individuals, there must and will be an economy of trade in food. A one sided trade at that.
Having written such heresy however, I must admit that a hollow martian moon spinning for the centrifical force might even allow us to farm both dairy and chicken in Mars orbit. Such a thing might even provide all the milk and cheese needed for a people living and working on Mars.

Still there is always a cost. Will it be our humanity as we take animals from the earth and regard them as nothing more than food or worse (a biological machine that produces food).

No matter our path, we will always be dependent on Earth.[/color:post_uid0]

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#20 2005-03-26 18:20:24

DonPanic
Member
From: Paris in Astrolia
Registered: 2004-02-13
Posts: 595
Website

Re: Greenhouses for Mars Greenhouses for Mars

[color=#3300CC:post_uid0]LO

DonPanic,
I don't want to throw a cog into the wheel of progress, but everything I've seen written on low g plant experiments has been a total disaster.
At 1/3 g   hormone, reproduction structures, transpiration, cell wall irregularities, water retention and water loss are just some of the problems that show up on even short term studies.
Also bacteria show some of the same problems at 1/3 g.[/quote:post_uid0]

What's the average time for "short term" studies ?
I haven't a real good idea about the way 1/3 g is obtained constantly on earths labs.
I'm quite sure bacterias can adapt quite fast[/color:post_uid0]

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#21 2005-03-26 20:29:58

srmeaney
Member
From: 18 tiwi gdns rd, TIWI NT 0810
Registered: 2005-03-18
Posts: 976

Re: Greenhouses for Mars Greenhouses for Mars

[color=#000000:post_uid0]"Should an administration cut on Space programs for any reason, such as war, revolution or political chaos, environmental catastrophe,
space colonies would starve."-D

That is why an "Administration" needs to be created that will be exclusively a government of Space. A new nation of no Citizens. Just waiting for applications of Citizenship.[/color:post_uid0]

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