White-Paper

Regenerative Life Support System by Conversion of CO2 to Glucose; an Enabling Technology for Deep Space Exploration and Settlement

One of the major challenges of a Mars mission is the production of human life support supplies. Currently, almost all supplies are supported from the earth. Dependence on earth is a risk for long-duration space missions. Therefore, development of innovative solutions for in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) is critical to provide a self-regenerative food system for long-duration space missions. One such ISRU solution can be modeled after natural photosynthesis in plants that can harvest the abundant solar energy to convert CO2 and water to glucose and oxygen. CO2 is an ideal feedstock for ISRU since astronauts breathe out 1kg/day/person of CO2, and 96% of the air consists of CO2 on Mars. CO2 and water are the main ingredients for production of a wide variety of life support resources such as nutrients and pharmaceuticals and the chemicals and polymers needed for establishing a settlement. In this study, we designed a bionic plant which mimics the photosynthesis process. Our enzyme-based synthetic pathway absorbs sunlight, CO2, and water to generate glucose and oxygen. Glucose is a base nutrient and a critical feedstock for almost all biomanufacturing processes. Results of the first phase of our research indicated the feasibility of glucose production utilizing an enzyme-based system which mimics photosynthesis.

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