Mar 27, 2017

Lecturer: Oscar Monje, Kennedy Space Center

Dr. Oscar Monje is a plant physiologist, Ascentech Enterprises, Inc, at the Kennedy Space Center. His primary area of expertise is the design and application of gas exchange techniques for the study of plant community responses in controlled environments. His background includes the areas of plant ecophysiology and modeling of biological systems, design and calibration of instrumentation, data acquisition, physical chemistry and biochemistry, analytical chemistry, and has cultivated a work ethic suitable for multidisciplinary enterprises. He participated in the USU Get Away Special Program where he built a biological flight experiment flown aboard STS-64. He supported plant experiments during Shuttle-Mir Greenhouse Experiments on the Mir Space Station. His M.S. and PhD work studied plant responses to CO2 and developing an energy balance model for soybean and wheat canopies in controlled environments. He was a research scientist responsible for quantifying gas exchange and optimizing cultural conditions for growing wheat during PESTO flight experiment, a 73-day mission using the BPS hardware on ISS. Currently, he leads the Air Revitalization Lab at KSC funded by the Advanced Exploration Systems Program and is a plant scientist testing the Advance Plant Habitat, NASA’s largest research plant chamber.

Topic: Space Farming

Space farming integrates agronomic and life support concepts because plants can produce food as well as recycle human waste: urine, gray water, and CO2 into human inputs: water, O2, and food. Plants also provide psychological benefits to the crew by providing smells, tastes and colors that remind them of Earth. Food production in space enables the colonization of distant locations by minimizing the logistics of resupply because food is produced in situ. In transit vehicles, space farms are essentially controlled environments that supply Light, CO2, O2, nutrients, water, and soil. Technological advances during the development of spaceflight plant chambers for use in microgravity have resulted in acceptable plant growth in the space-flight environment, which induces secondary effects caused by increased boundary layers surrounding plant organs, the absence of convective mixing, phase separation, and moisture redistribution in substrate media. On planetary or moon surfaces, larger colonies can be established and these will be supported by large scale agriculture, which will utilize local supplies of regolith that must be amended to provide the necessary nutrients for plant growth.

Recommended Readings:
Space Farming System, click here to download
Agriculture for Space: People and Places Paving the Way, click here to download
Review and analysis of over 40 years of space plant growth systems , click here to download

Lecture Slides: click to download

Recorded talk: click to view