Science

Astronauts at International Space Station now will eat their own ‘Poo’ for survival

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In an astonishing research, scientists have successfully discovered a method that can convert human wastes into space food. The new study revealed that using microbes, one can make marmite-like food from human waste to feed the astronauts. The latest study was carried out by a group of researchers at Pennsylvania State University. The scientists developed a method to break down the human waste consisting of solid as well as liquid wastes so as to produce protein and fat-rich substances.

Christopher House, professor of geosciences and director of the Penn State Astrobiology Research Center, said that they envisioned and tested the concept of simultaneously treating astronauts’ waste with microbes while generating a biomass that is edible either directly or indirectly, depending on safety concerns. “It’s a little strange, but the concept would be a little bit like Marmite or Vegemite, where you’re eating a smear of microbial goo, Prof. House stated. The latest space food producing technique has excited the scientists.

Providing food for astronauts who are on a long-term mission is quite difficult, and NASA considers it as a major hurdle when planning lengthy space flights. So, the scientists have been doing rigorous research on developing methods that can provide food to astronauts aboard long-term space missions. Now with House and his colleagues developing a great technique of converting human wastes into a valuable source of food for astronauts, it can be said that continuous supply of food can be arranged for deep-space missions in future.

For the research, the scientists prepared an enclosed cylindrical system and put artificial liquid and solid wastes used in waste management tests as well as select species of bacteria. Through anaerobic digestion, the bacteria broke down the waste and this produced methane. From this methane, the researchers successfully produce microbe named Methylococcus capsulatus made up of 52 percent protein and 36 percent fats.

According to the researchers, this process of microbial growth offers a potentially feasible way of creating nutritious food for astronauts in space. The researchers further developed different microbes under high alkaline environment as well as under high-heat environment. According to the researchers, their work demonstrates the feasibility of rapid waste treatment in a compact reactor design, and proposes recycling of nutrients back into foodstuffs via heterotrophic (including methanotrophic, acetotrophic, and thermophilic) microbial growth. The latest study was published in the journal Life Sciences in Space Research.

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  • Like many other spin offs from space research is this going to contribute to a solution in food shortage problems on planet Earth?

  • Why poo? ISS is just 400 KM above from earth surface, so they can manage meal easily. I mean they should not use poo as feedback to make food for survival. They must use some other pill/tablet for meal. A tablet should be so powerful that they would survive a month. Man lives for food but I am confused why happening so? The researchers and biotech departments should reconsider for the meal of the astronauts.

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