Scientist and Greenhab Officer
On the day I arrived at Hanksville, I asked Commander Cassie about feasibilities of growing plants by utilizing Greenhab facilities as, she was also interested growing plants and vegetables. Although a typical Greenhab structure is developed at MDRS campus but, installation of proper equipment and materials are essentially required in order to transform it into an active working Lab growing plant during crew sessions.
On first day, I have seen some of the equipment such as Water tubs and tanks, watering systems are available but have to be configured properly. The equipment such as weather control and monitoring system, air circulation system, are necessary to create a perfect atmosphere inside the Greenhab. But, Initially I started with some basic step to grow plant and understand the effect of inside atmosphere of the temporary Greenhab placed inside the Science Lab.
Figure 3: Greenhab in Science lab at MDRS
Soil collection, sampling and preparation:
On my first attempt of growing plants in MDRS, I was encouraged by the crews with some thoughtful ideas through the discussions. Then, I have figured out the most feasible way to collect soil sample and plants during EVA’s. Commander Cassie and all other crews agreed with the initiative of growing plant inside the small Greenhab lab. So, I started collecting different soil sample from the surrounding are of our Hab. Everyone was eagerly waiting to see the process of tree plantation and Janet was enthusiastically took a step forward of helping me with the process. She asked me if she can start filming me working inside the science lab during the process. It was an incredible opportunity for me to be part of a project carried out by a journalist. I auspiciously agreed with her decision of filming the session. During this session, I had interesting discussion with the crews on projecting our ideas towards developing a functional Greenhab in MDRS. Sometimes we use to have nice conversation through expanding the barrier of our imagination during lunch and dinner about how we can grow green plants vegetables on MARS in future. We also tried to understand the psychological effect of having a backyard garden with MARS habitat resembling an earth like atmosphere which might give home-like feeling during our stays on MARS. We started creating some artificial designs while travelling through our imagination towards creating ides of human settlement on MARS.
Phase 1, 15th & 16th May: I started collecting different soil samples and rocks during EVA’s and placed them inside small black containers. Then I have decided to choose existing plants that are available on surrounding area of MDRS crew Hab and brought them inside to grow under a proper treatment. In this duration I prepared the soil samples with (20 % nutrients) and without nutrients then placed the plants accordingly. Another soil sample is prepared in a medium size pot container by mixing two different soils samples 50 % each then I poured 10ml water on each prepared soil in small black container and medium pot as well. After the preparation, I placed the black containers with plants inside the small temporary Greenhab (UV light).
Figure 4 : Soil Samples
Phase 2, 17th & 18th May: Although most of the plants and soil was collected from surrounding area of the hab, so the transformation or changes much not observed in plant growth but I observed the plants with nutrients are wilting a little more but the plants without nutrients are growing naturally and looks very normal. I continually poured 10ml water on each of the plan every 2 days.
I discussed with the crews about this little progress that I made in this process. Everything looks very cool there inside the Green hab under UV light. The crew were happy to see the progress of growing plants as they also continuously visited the sciences lab making attempt to see the situations of plants.
Phase 3, 19th & 20th May: During this phase, I observed the plant which is put in mixed soil has almost died, similarly the plants without nutrients are wilting and bending down, it seems stems do not have enough strength to hold the leaves. But the plants without nutrients are growing good with solid strength in stems.
Figure 5 : Plants (a) with and (b) without Nutrients
Figure 6: Fungus has grown in Greenhab at MDRS
Phase 4, 21st May: When I woke up in the morning, I walked through the science lab and curiously watched inside, look! What I found there? I observed a type of white fungus have been surprisingly grown up across the adjacent and surrounding area to the plant (without nutrients). Although it has seen unexpectedly but, it’s amazing to see such algae fungus growing inside the Greenhab atmosphere alongside of other plants while a few of the plants are actually wilting and fading inside the same atmosphere.
Seed from Crew 180: Before my arrival at MDRS, Crew 180 made contact with us to discuss about the Hab activities and if we can take care of the Physalis they have placed inside the Greenhab. So, I use to take a look at the natural growth in the seeds planted inside Greenhab by Crew 180. I wanted to see the natural growth in the plants without having any further interference with the process. Initially a tiny green sprouting was observed and then it naturally grown up even the leaves are taking shape over time.