An innovative system that would turn astronaut feces into food could be a boon for future space missions to Mars.
It may sound disgusting, but turning human feces into food may be the key to helping humans survive in space the future, particulary on long distance missions like to Mars. And that is why Penn State researchers are working on a system that would combinemicrobes with human waste to create a new type of food that is a little bit like Vegemite, researchers say.
And it is not that far out of left field, as astronauts on the International Space Station are already drinking water that has been recycling from their own pee. If scientists could find a way to create food from feces, it would be a huge boon for space travel, as with limited cargo space it is not easy to carry a lot food on a long space journey.
The test system takes the shape of a cylinder and basically takes human waste and exposes it to microbes, which are able to break it down with their own digestive system. It is a process that has been used here on Earth to treat municipal waste, so it is certainly within the realm of the possible.
“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,” said Christopher House, professor of geosciences, Penn State. “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.'”