Considerations on Life Support Systems for Interstellar Travel: a Regenerative Story

M. Volponi, C. Lasseur
2020 Zenodo  
Humanity has always been fascinated by stars, from the mythological explanations of the dawn of civilizations to the most modern astrophysics theories. In the last 50 years we have understood (and proven) that we are able to live and travel outside Earth, and while we are planning to slowly exploring our Solar System, settling on the Moon, on Mars and on various space stations, the idea of reaching other star systems is more and more widespread. However, the limits of Einstein's General
more » ... n's General Relativity seem to withstand even every possible future physics discovery, so we probably have to accept that we will never be able to go faster than the speed of light and that, ultimately, interstellar travel will fundamentally be a matter of patience. Even going to the closest star systems will take more than one century, so spaceships capable of sustaining the lives of tens of thousands of individuals are the only viable option to perform such a travel. With this in mind, it is immediately clear that the production and the recycling of the resources (i.e. food, water and oxygen) on board the spaceship is of foremost importance, and it has to be done at such a level of perfection that, basically, every spacecraft shall function as a miniature Earth. In this article, the present state of the art of life support systems for space missions is outlined, giving an insight of the actual systems running on the International Space Station and their capabilities to maintain the astronauts alive, regenerating water and air, as well as minimising the risk for chemical and microbiological contamination: for every relevant system, an explanation of the working principle is given, highlighting the achievements as well as the current limitations. Starting from their planned upgrades, the present and future lines of research are discussed, encompassing physical, chemical and biological regeneration systems studies. The effectiveness of current life support is reviewed against the possible future systems, some already in development, and the di [...]
doi:10.5281/zenodo.3747355 fatcat:b2y76r7k5vbb3fzzqyxrcfwmce