The University of Colorado Boulder team’s entry in the eXploration HABitat (X-Hab) Academic Innovation Challenge is called “Plants Anywhere: Plants Growing in Free Habitat Spaces.” This approach calls for plants to be distributed in any available space in a deep-space habitat.
Heather Hava who is working on a doctorate in aerospace engineering sciences and bioastronautics, says it’s best for robots to do the grunt work to take the burden off the human astronauts.
“The ‘Plants Anywhere’ approach is designed to help minimize astronaut workload,” said Hava. “This keeps them free to concentrate on more important tasks.”
She and her team are working closely with NASA officials.
A Remotely Operated Gardening Rover, or ROGR, takes care of SmartPots, or SPOTS, distributed throughout the deep-space habitat’s living space. ROGR robots can visit a specific plant to deliver water or to locate and grasp a fruit or vegetable
“We want to optimize a system allowing the humans to get psychological benefits from interacting with the plants,” Hava said in video interview produced by the University of Colorado Boulder. “We also want the plants to be in the astronauts’ environment so they can see them, smell them and be around them. Who doesn’t love to pick a fresh strawberry?” she says in the video.
Strawberries, tomatoes, basil and peas are among the plants Hava is test-growing under lights in the laboratory.
Meanwhile, maybe someone else will invent a robot this summer that will help the relative“brown thumbs” like yours truly right here on Earth to be able to grow their own food.