2B (RME): Investigation - Spacesuits for Shrubbery

tl;dr: Design a small-scale analog of a closed-loop Martian greenhouse using a sealable pressure vessel. You'll be provided with materials and technologies. Prepare a working prototype.


Due: Friday 29th January

Digital Presentation to: RME Review 2B Slidedeck


Milestones:

Introduction

Our habitat has to be closed. To protect the plants from the environment of Mars, we’ll create a protective bubble around the plants - a spacesuit to contain and maintain them.

Being closed, all matter stays within that bubble. As we consume nutrients or as the plants grow, by-products like waste materials, gases, rot or decay, and other outputs of the lifecycle all stay within. Water won’t escape but it might evaporate. How do we recover it? How is the air revitalized when the plants convert carbon dioxide to oxygen? How do we process waste (or dead plants) to recover nutrients and other resources? Closed loop systems ask if we can we use them in other processes or put them to other purposes to make the system sustainable. How do we recycle and reuse? What else might we introduce to help this process? What does life support look like for our plants?

Green Sky Growers. From [Future Farming: How High Tech Aquaponics Makes Food Right](http://www.thecoolist.com/future-farming-how-high-tech-organics-make-food-right/#sthash.SSFyeezc.dpuf)

Green Sky Growers. From Future Farming: How High Tech Aquaponics Makes Food Right

[Biome](http://samuelwilkinson.com/biome/). Credit: Samuel Wilkinson

Biome. Credit: Samuel Wilkinson

It’s definitely possible. And there are plenty of starting points for this. NASA and other scholars have looked at this extensively at how closed-loop habitats can be created (see three links above). Aquaponics and hydroponics show potential for high yield crops. Paragon Space Development and Odyssey Moon have shown how it’s possible to grow a plant in a pressurised vessel on the moon. On Earth, Biome is a really polished example of “a flora terrarium, which works a little like a live tamagotchi – with a smartphone or Ipad as its key to controlling its climate, water level and nutrients.” However, experiments on Earth have also shown the challenges that exist in getting this right. Biosphere 2 alone holds a lot of lessons.

Biosphere 2, Oracle, Arizona.

Biosphere 2, Oracle, Arizona.

Living Things. Credit: Jacob Douenias and Ethan Frier

Living Things. Credit: Jacob Douenias and Ethan Frier

There’s also a lot of rich possibilities:

Cell Tower Antenae mounted to Palm trees

Cell Tower Antenae mounted to Palm trees

Botanicus Interacticus. Credit: [Ivan Poupyrev / Disney Research](http://www.disneyresearch.com/people/senior_research_scientists/ivan_poupyrev.htm?v=y&rnd=1337011722755), [Studio NAND](http://www.nand.io/), [TheGreenEyl](http://thegreeneyl.com/), [Phillip Schößler](http://bimster.com/), [Christian Riekoff](http://riekoff.com/).

Botanicus Interacticus. Credit: Ivan Poupyrev / Disney Research, Studio NAND, TheGreenEyl, Phillip Schößler, Christian Riekoff.

Learning Objectives

This exercise is designed to develop knowledge relating to closed-loop systems for plant growth. You’ll explore existing earth technologies for closed systems and plant growth as well as develop a small-scale prototype of our Martian habitat. As part of this exercise, you will:

Photographs of a mysterious man wearing a space suit were taken by [Natsumi Hayashi](http://yowayowacamera.com/) via [The fox is black](http://thefoxisblack.com/2011/03/04/space-suit-of-the-week-41/)

Photographs of a mysterious man wearing a space suit were taken by Natsumi Hayashi via The fox is black

Brief:

Speculate on the ideas of ‘spacesuits for shrubbery’ and the ways we’ll approach closed-loop systems on Mars.

Design and present a small scale analog for our Martian biome. You’ll be given a sealable pressure vessel, plants and a set of materials and technologies. Develop a working prototype that can monitor and sustain this plant on an on-going basis.

The only requirement is to sustain the plants and aside from that you can do anything you like! e.g. you can adapt the vessel/structure, build in additional proposals/ideas, modify the pressure vessel (e.g. from transparent to non-transparent), make it mobile, etc. etc.

Deliverables:

Final deliverables to be presented at the Crit/Review

Process:

All Investigations follow the same format: a series of small collaborative exercises that build towards a bigger vision. The format is 2-week rapid explorations of a theme, idea or theory, following four stages: Research-Ideation-Build-Reflect

Investigations will be conducted over a 2-week period (4 classes). The goal of investigations is to encourage:

  1. unconventional approaches to practical problems

  2. deep research and development of core knowledge, theory and methods

  3. applied exploration as a means to problem solve and integrate theory

Students will collaboratively and rapidly explore a provocation as part of a series of four-coupled pressure-projects.

a. Research

Teams will conduct research on the investigation theme.

Each person will identify and rigorously review two precedent projects (creative projects, research papers, theory, ideas, methods, etc.) that relates to the theme

The goal is to broaden your understanding of the field and deepen your knowledge of prior work that’s relevant to this project and to the course. You’ll be expected to select a couple of works and report on your findings with a critical perspective.

Objective: Report on two works you haven’t seen before, are relevant to the project and you find particularly interesting.

Create a post, embed a video and/or images of the project, and write a short critical reflection on the project (about 200 words) in which you:

Submitting this work: Post research outcomes to the #rme channel on Slack ahead of class

b. Ideate

Teams will brainstorm to explore

Teams will generate a well documented and large set of possible, plausible, preferable and probable ideas. This will be accomplished in part through in-class exercises. Working in groups the objective will be to integrate research and speculative approaches into a proposed outcome.

Submitting this work: A short 200 word proposal should be submitted to the #rme channel on Slack ahead of class. Everyone should review and discuss online.

c. Build

Each team will prepare a working prototype of a technical system to showcase their idea. Hardware, technologies and other resources can be requested.

d. Reflect

Teams will prepare a digital presentation and take part in a crit on Tuesday. The crit is equally an opportunity to showcase success as well as pose open questions and highlight challenges or failures encountered. Teams should use the opportunity to reflect on the exploration and what it reveals for the Martian biome we plan to build in the 2nd half of the semester.

Submitting your work: Digital presentations will be made in class. Digital documentation of their work (see below) on the IDeATe Gallery by end of day.

Summary: Submitting your work

Final Documentation Requirements:

Include a write up of the following:

Each of these sections should be no more than 200 words max. and well illustrated (images, videos, etc.)

For the Project Info’s goal description: it must be tweetable - summarise your outcome in no more than 140 characters

[Paragon Space Development](http://www.solaripedia.com/13/197/growing_plants_on_moon_becomes_feasible.html)'s pressurised Moon planter

Paragon Space Development’s pressurised Moon planter

Materials

You will be provided with:

Resources

Below are some useful resources

Credit: [Domsai Terrariums](http://www.domsai.com)

Credit: Domsai Terrariums