GREEN//CASE is a portable mini-greenhouse that can be completely 3D printed on an extra-terrestrial outpost, thus saving payload weight and costs. It’s main aim is not to produce nutritional additions to the crew’s meal plan or conduct scientific experiments; the small greenhouse is designed to provide each crew member with their very own green space, to tend to at their leisure and harvest the psychological benefits. GREEN//CASE can be set up in private quarters with minimum space requirements or taken along on long rover journeys.
While big-scaled greenhouses can support the habitat’s life support systems and food generation, GREEN//CASE works to raise habitability in personal quarters and help the astronauts to maintain important emotional balance.
„Green has always been a part of the vision for space. Plants can become as crucial to human survival in space as oxygen.“Haym Benaroya
The possibility of growing plants in an extra-terrestrial habitat offers a variety of multi-facetted benefits. Apart from providing necessary sustenance in a fresh form, plants can contribute greatly to raising habitability levels. Greenery has long been known to have a special value in maintaining emotional balance and avoiding mental health issues amongst the crew.1
A fruitful history of growing things in space lets us look back at missions like Salyut 6, where Astronaut V. Ryumin covered the space station in greenery by growing plants from empty food containers and film cassettes, or on the Salyut 1 flax seed sprouts, which were soon seen as beloved pets by the crew. The emotional connection and mental health benefits of tending to plants in space are undeniable. On the one hand, benefits stem from the activity of tending to something alive and helping something delicate grow, on the other hand the effects of introducing colour to the barren environment of outer space and technical habitats, as well as the sensory experience of soil and greenery, can greatly influence the crew.2
When designing extra-terrestrial greenhouses of any size, it is vital to take into accord the different gravitational conditions, as these will influence the movements of water, heat and gas. Having some amount of gravity, even if only the lunar 1.62 m/s2, facilitates the use of hydroponic or aeroponic systems.3 GREEN//CASE is specially designed to work in and with the lunar or Martian gravity.
While all main greenhouse systems, such as lighting and irrigation, within GREEN//CASE can be automated, a certain amount of human maintenance and pruning will remain imperative and at the same time facilitate the important mental health benefits.
Currently in the R&D stage, a prototype of GREEN//CASE is scheduled to be presented at the 2021 International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Dubai.
1 – Benaroya, Haym. 2018. Building Habitats on the Moon. Engineering Approaches to Lunar Settlements. Springer.
2 – Häuplik-Meusburger, Sandra; et al. 2014. Greenhouses and their Humanizing Synergies. Acta Astronautica, vol. 96.
3 – Monje, Oscar; et al. 2003. Farming in Space. Environmental and Biophysical Concerns. Advances in Space Research, vol. 31.