Future astronauts en route to Mars or deep-space destinations will need specially designed living quarters and renewable sources of food — so this year’s X-Hab Challenge includes a remotely operated, robotically controlled space garden. Students at the University of Colorado and Colorado State University are developing a workable prototype “bioregenerative food system,” which they’ll deliver to NASA next summer.
A team of student engineers at North Carolina State University is planning for a camping trip way off the beaten path. Meshing textile and aerospace engineering know-how, the team has created an inflatable, tent-like habitat tough enough to protect astronauts bedding down on the Martian surface. They’ve even built in a lightweight Sabatier reactor that can produce water, fuel, and oxygen from Mars’ carbon dioxide-rich environment.