MAI created the project of a chicken farm for Russian base on the Moon

March 28, 2024
MAI created the project of a chicken farm for Russian base on the Moon

Moscow Aviation Institute came up with a way to provide food for Russian cosmonauts during their flights to the Moon and Mars. Scientists designed cages for chickens, goats and other animals where they could keep fit in zero gravity. Cosmonauts will receive not only plant food from greenhouses, but also fresh meat, milk and eggs.

MAI researchers are interested in the life support system of future Russian bases on the Moon and Mars. In November 2023, the Russian Government approved joint project of an International Scientific Lunar Station with China, and the Director General of Roscosmos, Yury Borisov, stated that the landing of our cosmonauts on it is planned by 2030.

The authors of the invention, the associate professor of the University Valery Rozhnov and student Lala Churikova, note that there is a boom in the creation of space greenhouses in the world. The projects of the leading space agencies focused on the construction of bases on the Moon and the conquest of Mars include solving the problem of food for a long stay on the Earth orbit, on the Moon or even on another planet. One of the main tasks is to get high quality plant and animal food. In order to partially remake the crew's diet, scientists from different countries were building ground-based complexes for developing technologies for cultivating greenery and breeding animals for the last 50 years.

MAI proposed using a container cage (mainly for domestic chickens) with the possibility of maintaining physical activity during their stay on the Moon or Mars. The acceleration of free fall on the Moon is 1.625 meters per second squared, and that is about 16.6 % of the acceleration on the Earth's surface. Thus, if the animal does not train its muscles, it dies.

The model includes a treadmill with a mechanism that drives the tape, a tray, a feeder, and a manipulator – a special device that simulates the capture of an object.

A bird, goat or pig can only take food while standing in front of the feeder. At this point, the manipulator turns on and presses the animal against the running treadmill, simulating gravity. The feeder opens, and the animal goes for food along the ribbon. This is how it gets the necessary cardio training. At the end, the mechanism stops and the manipulator releases the animal.

– Experiments conducted on chickens showed that a decrease in gravity in zero gravity conditions leads to inactivity. They all suffered from cardiovascular diseases. The life expectancy of birds was short, egg production was low. Our technology allows birds and animals to get the necessary physical activity, explains Valery Rozhnov. – They need exercises with increased weight. In our model, we have created something like a saddle, which, like an arm, descends from above and grabs the animal's torso with an effort similar to that given to a person by a spacesuit. Due to this invention the cosmonauts in orbit retain their muscle amount.

During long business trips, the conquerors of the Universe will have to learn how to milk goats and cook meat dishes, Rozhnov adds:

– Goats are able to give milk for about five to six years. If goats are going to be born, astronauts should be able to butcher them. It's the same with chickens. According to our calculations, for every person on the lunar base, a conveyor belt of 46 birds is needed to fully feed on meat.

He emphasizes that ideally this project should be carried out in conditions as close as possible to a real space flight. So far, scientists are conducting all their research on Earth.

Russian agricultural technologies will be useful in space

For more than 10 years, the biological module "Nature", where animals lived, operated on the Russian manned scientific research orbital station "Mir". It was possible to grow quail chicks in incubators there, but weightlessness proved to be an insurmountable obstacle for the development of the organism of the surviving individuals. The problem was solved in 1999, when 37 chicks were born under the supervision of Russian scientists. However, in 2001, the station ended its existence, and the experiments stopped. Basically, experts from all over the world are focused on growing crops.

Today, greens are actively grown on the International Space Station. Greenhouses for the production of salad vegetables in microgravity are operating in the American segment of the Freedom station and in the Columbus module (European laboratory). The European Space Agency is implementing AgroSpace-MELISSA and EDEN projects dedicated to the creation of plant cultivation systems on lunar and Martian bases. Researchers in the EU and the USA are busy, in particular, selecting suitable seeds and varieties of wheat, potatoes, soybeans, salads, beets and rice. NASA and the Chinese Research and Training Center for Astronauts in Beijing are also implementing projects for closed-type food greenhouses. However, agricultural technologies are still at the stage of ground testing.

For Russia, such life support systems are very relevant as part of the Roscosmos space program and the construction of a joint base on the Moon with China. Russian architects are already creating prototypes of scientific research bases.

The first space research greenhouses (Oasis-1) they appeared in the USSR on the Soyuz-10 –Salyut orbital complex in 1971. Since the late 1980s, the Institute of Biomedical Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IBMP RAS), together with RSC “Energia”, have been developing a technology for so-called conveyor sowing - with a certain time interval, plants of different ages are sown, intended for cultivation in microgravity. Cabbage, radishes and other plants are now grown in the Russian ISS module. Several ground-based prototypes of cylindrical conveyor salad greenhouses (including technologies for obtaining carrots, peppers and tomatoes) were tested.

One of the most ambitious projects to create an ecosystem for life on other planets is considered to be Biosphere 2 in Arizona. The experiment with eight people began in 1991 and lasted two years. Under a huge glass dome, experts simulated all seven biomes of the planet – from the desert to the ocean. Goats, pigs and birds lived there. However, the experiment ended in failure, one of the reasons was the lack of carbon dioxide for plant nutrition.

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