Due to logistical challenges, long-term human space exploration missions require a life support system capable of regenerating all the essentials for survival.
Higher plants can be utilized to provide a continuous supply of fresh food, atmosphere revitalization, and clean water for humans. Plants can adapt to extreme environments on Earth, and model plants have been shown to grow and develop through a full life cycle in microgravity. However, more knowledge about the long term effects of the extraterrestrial environment on plant growth and development is necessary.
The European Space Agency (ESA) has developed the Micro-Ecological Life Support System Alternative (MELiSSA) program to develop a closed regenerative life support system, based on micro-organisms and higher plant processes, with continuous recycling of resources. In this context, a literature review to analyze the impact of the space environments on higher plants, with focus on gravity levels, magnetic fields and radiation, has been performed.
This communication presents a roadmap giving directions for future scientific activities within space plant cultivation. The roadmap aims to identify the research activities required before higher plants can be included in regenerative life support systems in space.
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