Northern communities will benefit from Canada’s research into plant-based, closed life support systems that are being developed for space, according to Alan Scott, Research and Development Coordinator at COM DEV.
“The applications for socioeconomic benefits are clear,” said Alan Scott, who works closely with the University of Guelph’s Controlled Environment Systems Research Facility, to delegates at the Canadian Space Summit on Sunday.
“Canadian northern remote communities are not all that different from the moon or Mars, except for the gravity … right now Canada has a food mail program where we spend $85 million* a year to send fresh food for these communities. You could use this budget to develop this system instead.”
The Canadian Space Agency identified life-support technologies for long-duration spaceflight as a priority area in its Exploration Core Program, which was most recently discussed at at the 61st Astronomical Congress in Prague.
President Barack Obama’s decision to focus on long-duration missions in lieu of the older Constellation moon-to-Mars vision provided a lift to this life-science research, Scott said at the downtown Lord Elgin Hotel in Ottawa.
“Constellation didn’t work very well in terms of the CSA’s priorities … because you don’t need advanced life support on the moon,” he said.
“When you go to long-duration architecture then it becomes very important to have systems based on plant-based growth.”
The new shift to long-term missions has provided a niche area for Canada to grow into, one that is already attracting the attention of international partners, he said.
Russia’s Lada plant chamber, which has a space garden of sorts for long-duration International Space Station residents, has had some problems with water fertilization in space, Scott said. They’ve turned to Canada for hardware help.
The European Space Agency, he added, has also asked for plant expertise for their MELiSSA advanced life support system.
“It’s a very broad and inclusive program that can get everyone in Canada involved.”
Editor’s note: According to Indian and Northern Affairs Canada web site Canada spent $57.8 million in 2008-2009 for Food Mail Program.
* This is correction to Alan Scott’s quote. He was referring to Canada Post Food Mail in 2011-12 is estimated to be be $85 million (Indian and Northern Affairs Canada)