Space farming, though a fictionalized scenario in the movie, is actually happening already, according to Bruce Bugbee. The director of the plants, soils and climate department at Utah State University has been working alongside NASA for the last decade to grow plants in space.
Bugbee recently saw his project come to fruition on the International Space Station. The six astronauts on board were not only able to harvest crops this August but also were the first humans in space to consume them.
The natural lighting is also an issue. That isn’t nearly enough light. Bugbee said of the movie version. So what we are working on right now is big, reflective mirrors with lenses that concentrate sunlight and bring it inside with fiber optics.
The harsh storms, lack of light, heat needed to keep warm at night, the need to completely change either the chemistry of the soil or genetically engineer plants to grow in iron-rich, nutrient poor soil, and lack of oxygen in the atmosphere would most decidedly kill you.
NASA has funded Bugbee’s space farming project for what looks to be short-term. We reached out to NASA to see if there were any other plans going forward but so far have not heard back.
Nevertheless, NASA has tested the idea in the wild and proved it works, but funding academic science projects is vastly different from raising startup rounds from VC firms.
Today, it costs $10,000 to put a pound of food and other supplies into Earth orbit. Growing food in space will make space travel more cost effective, according to Bugbee.
He also told us that scrubbing CO2 from the cabin air is a complex and expensive process for NASA, one that plants do naturally, and for free. And then there are the psychological benefits, he said. Watching plant life grow can boost an astronauts mood on a long, dark ride out into space.