Robots don't need a whole lot to survive, and even thrive, on the surface of Mars (once they get there, anyway). But meeting even the most basic needs of humans will be a huge challenge — we'll need some kind of bioregenerative system to grow food, produce oxygen, clean our water and recycle nutrients.
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.
With Mars500 now behind us, NASA is dialing up its own Mars mission simulation in conjunction with Cornell and the University of Hawaii-Manoa. Unlike Mars500, the NASA-sponsored sim won’t run the full 520 days estimated as necessary to complete a real Mars mission. But the four-month simulation will focus very heavily on one critical aspect of any future manned voyage to deep space: food.
According to the newly published autobiography of Yang Liwei, head of China's first manned space mission in 2003, the crew's meals included dog meat from Huajiang county, which is renowned for its health benefits.
The meat is claimed to "cure high blood pressure, help build up old people's health, and reduce frequent urination," handy on a long voyage.