Next, Er, Steps

I want to follow up on last week’s posts a bit and also look ahead to a few other things. Meantime, if anyone does know of research being done that I’ve missed, please sing out!

The immediate first step is do some fairly straight-forward research. The thing to do is both replicate and expand the FEE experiment from Spacelab J so that several generations of frogs are raised in five different gravitational environments: microgravity, lunar gravity, Mars gravity, something between Mars and full, and full gravity. Harvest samples at various stages for detailed study on the ground, to make sure there are not subtle chemical or other changes taking place. That will provide a lot of good data, including on what level of gravity is needed for proper reproductive development. Multi-generational gives us a look at the long-term.

It may be that Lunar- or Mars-level gravity is sufficient. If not, some type of centrifuge arrangement should work. Follow-on research as to intervals of gravitational exposure should provide the data on if constant gravity is needed or not.

I would also recommend expanding the research to include fish and shrimp. Self-sustaining aquaculture would be a good way to ensure protein and other nutrients for planetary or asteroid colonies. We just need to be sure that it can be done in other than full gravity. Again, let me plug the Act of God/Island Worlds series as they touch on this a bit.

If there is interest, I can try to do a longer post on how aquaculture could be used as part of the life support system. The short version is that the “waste” from the fish and fish processing can be converted to fertilizer and/or feed, and there are ways to possibly use plankton and/or algae for photosynthesis on top of that. The fertilizer could be used to support growing rice and/or other crops.

BTW, “Eric Kotani” was the pen name of astrophysicist Yoji Kondo, who not only wrote entertaining fiction, but used it to explore concepts and possibilities. Full disclosure: Both he and John Maddox Roberts showed me great kindness over the years, and talking with either was always a pleasure.

As noted in the books, the growth of rice developed for low-gravity and confined conditions would not only provide a much needed grain, but the stalks could be used for weaving tatami-style mats to help soften what is likely to be a rather austere environment at first. Again, plant growth could be a very useful part of the environmental systems. Not to replace, but to augment and provide redundancy. The fact that plants actually need a very narrow range of light for growth, which can be provided with low-energy/low heat (heat and heat dissipation being an issue for orbital operations) LEDs, makes it feasible.

As an aside, lots of science fiction has including using grass as a carpet, particularly in space habitats. The idea is intriguing but is going to take more than just creating soil or such to lay down and grow the grass. Given problems with water, humidity, and the fact that microbes love microgravity, my suspicion is that a rather technologically advanced flooring system will be needed. Something that can provide a base for growth, the ability to provide water and other nutrients as needed, the ability to remove excess moisture, and monitor growth and other factors.

Now, as for the act of reproduction itself, no need for formal research. If informal research has not already begun, it will soon and humans are an inventive and adaptive species. Especially when it comes to sex.

Let’s just be sure that when the inevitable happens, we know what is needed for a healthy pregnancy for humans, and healthy development for food sources and pets.


Space-ing Is Hard

Sex In Space!