Introduction: Microgravity Planter (In Progress)

About: I'm just a guy who wants to learn about technology and science

In our world, we're driven by advances. One huge advancement that mankind has been dreaming of is long term habitation of worlds beyond our own, but how do we survive to get there? One key factor in getting to, and through the vacuum of space would be of course a ship, as well as instruments to guide us. But Food is something of another issue. There's only so much space inside a ship to store food and considering that the nearest inhabitable star system, Alpha Centauri, is over 4 lightyears away, there would not be enough food to feed a full crew compliment. Our only option then, to grow plants in space. The International Space Station does have a system in which to grow food, but a majority of the space that it takes up is machinery, and the yields are very small and would only come in short bursts. Thus the problem arises of how do we make it more efficient.

Step 1: The Design

For my space I decide that I would have a box, which I made out of a 4' by 4' sheet of 1/2" plywood. I wanted the box to be not just a square so I thought that I could have a sort of staircase design. The box is a 50x50x50 cm box, but at each "step in the stair" it drops 10cm. The intention behind this was so that the excess plywood above the "stair" could be cut off, and because this is intended for microgravity, another one could be flipped on top so that about 50,000 cm³ can be saved. That may seem small, but that space could be potentially invaluable. The reason the "stair" was implemented was so that as the plants grew (starting at the right), they could be slid further down to the left to the second area, and finally the third area, when it should then be ready to harvest meaning that food from the system could be brought in more frequently and regularly.

Step 2: The Plants

Now forgive me, this project is still in progress, and yes it does look very DIY and Hodge podgy, I did what I could with the little time I have between school and home. So, for the plants will go into 25x16.6x10 cm boxes which should be plenty of room for soil. In one of the photos above you'll see a Ziploc bag with some stuff coming out of it. That bag is connected to a spout that I quickly CADed and printed, and then I used hot glue to fuse them together, and then connected 3/16 inch diameter aquarium tubing. This will act as a form of supplying the plants with water. I do not intend this to be in the final product, because if this does get to space, I think it would be much easier if we used capillary action so that it can be a passive form of transport and be able to supply the right rate of waterflow. So, the bag will be filled up and placed inside the box you can also see above. The bag will then be covered in dirt, which will then be how I simulate capillary action. (sidenote: the box is just cardboard, Duck Taped together to be waterproof and cohesive, it ain't pretty, but it'll do) Then the seed(s) can be placed into the soil watch them grow (eventually a cover will have to be added so particles don't go flying around the capsule, so I suggest that you take a garbage bag and cut it up, making sure that there are holes where you planted the seeds, and then tape it tightly across the top of the box). Now that the plant box is complete, we can put it in the actual planter. The plater is able to fit 2 of these boxes in each stage since each is only 25 cm long and the planter is 50 cm long. These two boxes that can be moved independently or in tandem with one another to the next stage.

Step 3: Finishing Up

To finish up, of course we have to have some form of Ultraviolet light to allow for the photosynthesis reaction to occur inside plants. This was done by some LED stripes that I got from Amazon, and the cut up and then I used some old wires I had laying around to solder them up to this configuration. The plants can now theoretically go underneath and start to grow, but I'm still testing some things before I actually start growth just so that I can minimize mistakes later on. The plant boxes will also have to be secured in some way if this is in space, or else they'd float away. My sister suggested to me that I should like the bottom of the boxes and growth box with magnets so that they stay in place. (I also suggest that if anyone does replicate this that you put a cover on the box so ultraviolet light isn't just spewing everywhere).

Growing Beyond Earth Maker Contest

Participated in the
Growing Beyond Earth Maker Contest