Introduction: SAGE: Spherical Alternative Garden Enclosure
This project is being submitted under the High School category.
One of the many problems astronauts may face with cultivating plants in space, is microgravity. As all objects float in space, it becomes a struggle to properly grow produce, such as lettuce. Another issue that surrounds the conflict with astronauts is the attentiveness of the plants. Keeping close eye on them and making sure they get proper nutrients and water can become a burden, especially considering the other crucial things astronauts are liable for. Keeping those aspects of astronaut life in mind, I have designed a more efficient way for plant life to thrive in space without the constant attention from members on the space station. This idea could potentially be implemented in the future on the International Space Station.
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My design (SAGE) consists of two major parts that allow for the plant life to grow. Contained inside the given 50 by 50 by 50 centimeter dimensions, there will be a sphere made of plastic. This sphere is going to be located towards the center of the cube with a diameter of 20 centimeters. It will sit on a rod allowing support. Inside this sphere will be holes that offer the plants a place to grow from. Water and nutrients will be supplied to the plant via the rod. It will be a hollow rod (water pump), able to suck up water from the base and transport it into each plant.
For the second aspect of the apparatus, there will be LED lights located all the way around the cube. As it is known that plants grow towards light, this will offer a strategic way for the plants to grow in every direction.
In order for the plants to get proper nutrients there will be an automatic timer system attached to the water pump, watering the plants two times a day. This water is able to be recycled, maximizing every material possible. This can be gained through evaporation as well as extra drainage.
Each seed for the plants will be attached to the holes using inside of the sphere. There will be small pockets using vermiculite (which is a hydrous material) that enable the seeds to sit in, thus making the seeds grow into plants, hydroponically.
As for the box it will be made out of plexiglass sheets, which are a reliable material that offer the astronauts a chance to see the plants grow and tend to them when necessary. Plexiglass offers stability, but it is also completely shatterproof making the transport during flight to be as steady as possible. It will be stabilized with aluminum Maker Beams on all edges of the plexiglass, making SAGE even more secure.
Using Arduino boards, the SAGE system will be able to autonomously supply the plants with the nutrients that it needs. These boards are easily programmable. Arduino is also measuring temperature, humidity, and the water pump at all times; as well as controlling the LED lights.
The majority of the SAGE sphere is able to be 3D printed, allowing everything to be assembled in a quick manner, while the system is still very efficient.
Astronauts say they prefer read leaf lettuce, so under the conditions of the SAGE system, this type of lettuce will be able to thrive. In the 45-55 days it takes to grow, each head can grow between 20-30 centimeters, which allow the lettuce to have enough room in the space provided.
Hopefully SAGE will be considered in future trials with green life in space!