Scientists find how to recycle astronauts' human waste into food, will it be practical?


The world is gearing up to embark upon a journey to Mars and beyond. Scientists have long been experimenting on what the astronauts would eat in their years-long journey in space, Now, they have come up with a possible solution which is rather insensitive though possible.

A group of researchers has created a process, through which human waste can be converted into the source of space food for the astronauts in long missions to the moon, Mars or somewhere else in "a galaxy far, far away".

The scientists from the Pennsylvania State University in the US made use of microbes to break down liquid as well as solid waste and produced some substance that is rich in fat and protein. "We envisioned and tested the concept of simultaneously treating astronauts' waste with microbes while producing 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 (sandwich spreads), where you're eating a smear of 'microbial goo'," stated one Christopher House, a geosciences professor at the Penn State, reported the university.

Professor House and his team of experts concluded a method in their study, by which a nutrient-rich space food can be created from human-waste for astronauts in space missions. As per the report, the process includes anaerobic digestion. When substances are broken down without the presence of oxygen, it is called anaerobic digestion.

This process, invented by the Penn State scientists formed methane gas, which the researchers then used to grow a microbe called Methylococcus capsulatus. This strain of microbes "is used as animal feed." It contains 36% fat and 52% protein. So, this substance a great potential to become the source of space food for humans.

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The study was published in Life Sciences. Although the aforementioned method is not yet entirely ready to be implemented, it does provide a new concept for creating space food for astronauts aboard spacecraft in the galaxy.

International Space Station astronauts already recycle some human waste. They extract water from humans' urine. However, solid waste is just thrown out into the vacuum of space. It remains to be seen how far this is acceptable to astronauts.

This article was first published on January 31, 2018