Keeping astronauts alive – and improving wine

Astronauts on a long-duration space mission would need tonnes of food, water and oxygen with them to stay alive – if they rely on current life support technologies. But ESA’s Micro-Ecological Life Support System Alternative (MELiSSA) pilot plant at the University Autònoma of Barcelona is targeting the creation of a closed-loop life-support system with close to 100% efficiency: all food is grown and water and air recycled. At the moment, a ‘crew’ of rats are being kept alive; one element of the international long-term MELiSSA effort, coordinated by ESA. Terrestrial spin-offs include improved water purification and process control for wine-making.

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