Space settlement relevance
Orbital space settlements will be located between the planets.
While the Sun will provide ample reliable energy, there are
essentially no material resources in the immediate vicinity. All
materials will need to be transported from Earth, the Moon, the
asteroids, comets, or other planets and their moons. Thus, the
space colony designer may assume ample energy but must conserve
materials. Therefore, the life support system of the colony should
recycle all materials. Since we would prefer a life support
system consisting primarily of plants, animals, and single-celled
organisms, our life support system may be described as an
ecosystem. Because our space colony's ecosystem is does not import
or export materials, we call it a closed ecosystem.
Space settlement ecosystem components
- Abiotic - Nonliving Components
- Soil chemistry
- Electromechanical devices
- Biotic - Living Components
- Regenerative Life
Support, Jim Atwater. This World Wide Web site presents
an overview of current Environmental Control and Life Support
System (ECLSS) technologies deployed aboard the Shuttle Orbiter,
the Russian Mir Space Station, and those to be deployed aboard
International Space Station in the near future. A guide to the
literature of evolving Advanced Life Support Systems which will be
required for future long duration missions to the Moon and Mars is
Closed ecosystem construction and observation
In this lesson each student or team builds a close ecosystem and
observes its development and/or decay. Then, optionally, the
class develops hypotheses based on the observations and runs
experiments on a number of closed ecosystems to test the
Prepare the closed ecosystem
The class now has a number of closed ecosystems.
- Get a large clear bottle with a cap.
- Collect several plants, small animals, some soil, and some
water. The water may contain pond scum or other living
- Place the collected materials into the bottle.
- If possible, puts a thermometer and/or other instruments into
the bottle so that you can read them after the bottle is
- Put the cap on the bottle and seal the space between the cap
and bottle with melted wax or other air-tight material.
- Place the bottle where it will receive at least indirect light.
This is the energy source.
Try to determine whether each ecosystem was truly closed. It
is quite likely that most of the initial closed ecosystems will die
very rapidly. That's ok. Most things fail the first time. That's
why we do this with bottles not astronauts.
- At regular intervals record the ecosystem's condition.
- Note the temperature and instrument readings if available.
- Describe the color and other observable characteristics of the
- Enter this information into a notebook.
- If quantitative information is recorded, create a chart of the
data and calculate the mean, standard deviation, and range.
Design and run experiments
- Examine the records and discuss the results of the closed
- Form one or more hypotheses to explain why some ecosystems
lived longer then others.
- For each hypothesis:
- Create two sets of 5-10 closed ecosystems where the sets differ
in only one aspect chosen to test the hypothesis.
- Observe the development of these ecosystems.
- Determine if the hypothesis was correct.
- Write a report describing the hypothesis, background
information, experimental method, and results. Discuss the meaning
of the results in the last section of the report.
Curator: Al Globus
NASA Responsible Official: Dr. Ruth Globus
If you find any errors on this page contact Al Globus.
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