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Technical Paper

Top-Level Crop Models for Advanced Life Support Analysis

We have developed top-level crop models for analysis of Advanced Life Support (ALS) systems that use plants to grow food. The crops modeled are candidates for ALS use: bean (dry), lettuce, peanut, potato (white), rice, soybean, sweet potato, tomato, and wheat. The crop models are modified versions of the energy cascade crop growth model originally developed for wheat by Volk, Bugbee, and Wheeler. The models now simulate the effects of temperature, carbon dioxide level, planting density, and relative humidity on canopy gas exchange, in addition to the effects of light level and photoperiod included in the original model. The energy cascade model has also been extended to predict the times of canopy closure, grain setting (senescence), and maturity (harvest) as functions of the environmental conditions.
Technical Paper

Searching for Alien Life Having Unearthly Biochemistry

The search for alien life in the solar system should include exploring unearthlike environments for life having an unearthly biochemistry. We expect alien life to conform to the same basic chemical and ecological constraints as terrestrial life, since inorganic chemistry and the laws of ecosystems appear to be universal. Astrobiologists usually assume alien life will use familiar terrestrial biochemistry and therefore hope to find alien life by searching near water or by supplying hydrocarbons. The assumption that alien life is likely to be based on carbon and water is traditional and plausible. It justifies high priority for missions to search for alien life on Mars and Europa, but it unduly restricts the search for alien life. Terrestrial carbon-water biochemistry is not possible on most of the bodies of our solar system, but all alien life is not necessarily based on terrestrial biochemistry.
Technical Paper

Modeling Separate and Combined Atmospheres in BIO-Plex

We modeled BIO-Plex designs with separate or combined atmospheres and then simulated controlling the atmosphere composition. The BIO-Plex is the Bioregenerative Planetary Life Support Systems Test Complex, a large regenerative life support test facility under development at NASA Johnson Space Center. Although plants grow better at above-normal carbon dioxide levels, humans can tolerate even higher carbon dioxide levels. Incinerator exhaust has very high levels of carbon dioxide. An elaborate BIO-Plex design would maintain different atmospheres in the crew and plant chambers and isolate the incinerator exhaust in the airlock. This design option easily controls the crew and plant carbon dioxide levels but it uses many gas processors, buffers, and controllers. If all the crew’s food is grown inside BIO-Plex, all the carbon dioxide required by the plants can be supplied by crew respiration and the incineration of plant and food waste.
Technical Paper

Lunar Base Life Support Failure Analysis and Simulation

Dynamic simulation of the lunar outpost habitat life support was undertaken to investigate the impact of life support failures and to investigate possible responses. Some preparatory static analysis for the Lunar Outpost life support model, an earlier version of the model, and an investigation into the impact of Extravehicular Activity (EVA) were reported previously. (Jones, 2008-01-2184, 2008-01-2017) The earlier model was modified to include possible resupply delays, power failures, recycling system failures, and atmosphere and other material storage failures. Most failures impact the lunar outpost water balance and can be mitigated by reducing water usage. Food solids and nitrogen can be obtained only by resupply from Earth. The most time urgent failure is a loss of carbon dioxide removal capability. Life support failures might be survivable if effective operational solutions are provided in the system design.
Technical Paper

Crop Models for Varying Environmental Conditions

New variable environment Modified Energy Cascade (MEC) crop models were developed for all the Advanced Life Support (ALS) candidate crops and implemented in SIMULINK. The MEC models are based on the Volk, Bugbee, and Wheeler Energy Cascade (EC) model and are derived from more recent Top-Level Energy Cascade (TLEC) models. The MEC models were developed to simulate crop plant responses to day-to-day changes in photosynthetic photon flux, photoperiod, carbon dioxide level, temperature, and relative humidity. The original EC model allowed only changes in light energy and used a less accurate linear approximation. For constant nominal environmental conditions, the simulation outputs of the new MEC models are very similar to those of earlier EC models that use parameters produced by the TLEC models. There are a few differences. The new MEC models allow setting the time for seed emergence, have more realistic exponential canopy growth, and have corrected harvest dates for potato and tomato.