Plant growth is an important step in establishing colonies on other planets. It is a well-known fact that plants provide edible biomass, absorb CO2, and produce O2 and drinking water. The Arthur Clarke Mars Greenhouse (ACMG) was established in the Canadian Arctic to simulate an autonomous greenhouse on Mars. What follows is an overview of its features.
This article is part of a series on research and technological developments intended for the colonization of other planets.
The Arthur Clarke Mars Greenhouse (ACMG) is a biological life support systems test facility developed to study and understand automated greenhouse production in extreme environments. Established in 2002, the ACMG became part of the Haughton-Mars Project (HMP), run by the Mars Institute, which is an international field research project that participates in numerous disparate studies.
Located on Devon Island close to the Haughton crater in the Canadian High Arctic, HMP uses the remote polar desert and uninhabited island as a terrestrial environmental analogue for Mars and Moon. The site’s geologic topography and biological aspects promote a distinctive research and operations environment suitable to the elaboration of knowledge, technologies, and field based operational methodologies that could be a significant step to successful long duration human space missions.
The ACMG does not have all the functionality of a replicated closed loop life support system to be deployed on Mars or the Moon. On the other hand, it supports extreme environment for scientific and operational research, providing an improved understanding of how remote and semiautonomous plant production systems could one day be operated. The ACMG is composed of a DC power system, a plant growth system, an environmental control system, a local network, communication system and a data acquisition and control system (Bamsey et al., 2009a; Giroux et al., 2006). The greenhouse operates autonomously throughout the year, with the researchers only on-site during the month of July when the crops are harvested and reseeded (Bamsey et al., 2009b). The ACMG was the test bed for the TIS-II GFP imager deployed in 2006 and the TIS-III GFP imager in 2010.
ACMG ’s Equipment
The ACMG power comes from a DC renewable energy system composed of six solar panels of 110 W (peak) each and can provide a total of 660 W during a sunny day in the summer. In addition, the greenhouse is powered with two wind turbines, each with a peak output of 400 W. The solar panels and wind turbines are connected to a battery bank through a set of charge controllers.
All greenhouse sensors, relays, Ethernet cameras and the TIS-III imager are controlled and synchronized by a programmable logic controller with an intelligent Ethernet control interface. The information collected by the controllers, sensors and cameras is accessed by an independent embedded Linux command and control computer and sent via satellite to an autonomous mission operations computer server system at Simon Fraser University (SFU), British Colombia. Upon reception of the data, the information is processed and stored, and then made available to the researchers through the Internet (Giroux et al., 2006).
The Canadian Space Agency also developed at ACMG a Data Management System that was utilized by greenhouse operators and participating scientists and was accessible worldwide. In addition, the greenhouse and the TIS-III imager were controlled through the use of the Canadian Space Agency’s Exploration Development and Operations Centre (ExDOC).
Prior to sending astronauts to others planets (Mars or Moon), research from sites like the ACMG is crucial to better understand how plants could grow and sustain human life.
The following video present the ACMG:
Talal Abboud holds a Bachelor and a Master of Engineering from the Department of Electrical Engineering of the École de technologie supérieure (ÉTS). He is currently an electronics designer at Kongsberg Automotive centre of excellence (CoE) department.
Matthew Bamsey is a Research Associate at Institute of Space Systems DLR in Germany. He is also part of the EDEN ISS project team. He worked on research projects at the University of Florida, University of Guelph and the CSA.
Anna-Lisa Paul is a Research Professor in Horticultural Sciences,University of Florida. Her research interests focus on the regulation of plant gene expression in response to abiotic stress and extreme environments.
Thomas Graham is a Research and Development Manager at the University of Guelph’s CESRF. His research interest focuses on improving volume utilization efficiency in bioregenerative life-support systems.
Stephen Braham is the Director of PolyLAB and of the Polymath Develoment Group, both at Simon Fraser University. His is also Vice President of the Mars Institute.
Rita Noumeir is a professor in the Electrical Engineering Department at ÉTS. Her research includes applying artificial intelligence methods to create decision support systems as well as video and image processing.
Program : Electrical Engineering
Alain Berinstain spent 17 years at the CSA where he was Director of Planetary Exploration and Space Astronomy. Since 2013, with the creation of his own company, Psyence, he now devotes himself to the communication of science and technology.