In what could be a major discovery in scape science, astronauts could now serve themselves with eating nutrients and using plastics produced by yeast fed with their own urine, according to researchers exploring ways to harness human waste in space.
According to a report, urine is already recycled on board the International Space Station to provide clean drinking water for US astronauts – although the system hasn’t been embraced by the Russian side of the station.
But now a US-based team has taken the motto “waste not, want not” to new heights, using human waste from breath to pee to produce a variety of materials for lengthy space journeys.
“Astronauts will need to be able to produce nutrients and materials they need during Earth-independent long-term space travel,” Mark Blenner, a synthetic biologist from Clemson University in South Carolina, who is leading the research, quoted in a report.
“They simply don’t have the space to transport all possible needs – and certain nutrients, drugs, and materials can degrade over the course of three-plus year mission.”
Presented at the annual conference of the American Chemical Society, the project is focused on using human urine to feed various strains of Yarrowia lipolytica – a yeast commonly found in cheese.
Urea within urine provides the yeast with nitrogen, while algae provide the yeast with a source of sugars, lipids and other nutrients. These algae are also part of the bid to recycle human waste, with the photosynthetic organisms producing their carbon-based substances using CO2 which could come from sources that include the breath of the astronauts.