May 15, 1998 WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The experiences of the team of scientists who lived in the Biosphere 2 closed system from 1991 to 1993 can be applied to space travel, according to Sally Silverstone, co-captain of the crew.
Long-term space missions will require life support systems similar to the steel and glass structure north of Tucson, Ariz., where eight scientists lived for two years, Silverstone said.
Silverstone spoke at symposium on future directions in space life science research at a meeting of the Space and Underwater Research Group of the World Federation of Neurology here today. The meeting is being coordinated by the Stroke Research Center of the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.
Biosphere 2 was sealed and open only to sunlight. The structure had systems that provided water, food, air regeneration, and waste water recycling.
Inside Biosphere 2, a half-acre cropping area produced enough food to meet about 80 percent of the crew's nutritional needs, she said. Biosphere 2 also contained a rain forest, a million-gallon ocean with a coral reef, a desert, a savanna, a marsh, 3,800 species of plants and animals, as well as living quarters for the crew of four men and four women.
In future space travel such as a base on another planet, similar "biospheres" may be used that would have a closed environment open to energy from the sun. As with Biosphere 2, nothing but ambiant light could pass through the barrier, requiring the base to provide the atmosphere, water and nutrients to keep the operators of the base going.
About one fourth of the crew's time was spent on managing the agricultural fields. Food preparation took 12 percent of the crew's time and animal care took 9 percent of their time.
Silverstone spoke about the future research specifications for long-term missions, as well. The whole basic concept has been pretty well proved, she said. But there are many areas that need to be studied, she said. Among the research needs are:
* How to increase crop production in smaller spaces.
* Comparing use of artificial lighting to ambiant lighting to see what is missing.
* Understanding atmospheric recycling because certain nutrients can get tied up more than others.
* Determining recreational needs of the crew in space.
Silverstone, who is the vice president of Agricultural and Forestry for Ecofrontieers Inc. and shareholder of Biospheres LLC, a private research and development firm, was the co-captain of the Biosphere 2 crew and manager of agriculture and food systems.
She has worked on food and agricultural projects in East Africa, India and Puerto Rico. A native of England, she managed and coordinated the architectural division operations, financial administration and cost control from 1987 to 1991 for Space Biospheres Ventures, the company that built and operated Biosphere 2.
In addition to publishing papers on the agricultural systems of Biosphere 2, she has published a cookbook, Eating In: From the Field to the Kitchen in Biosphere 2.
The four-day meeting -- the Congress on Cerebral Ischemia, Vascular Dementia, Epilepsy and CNS Injury: New Aspects of Prevention and Treatment from Space and Underwater Exploration -- continues through Wednesday noon at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, formerly the Sheraton Washington.
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The above story is based on materials provided by Bowman Gray/Baptist Hospital Medical Center.
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