Water and Air Consumption aboard Interstellar Arks

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F. Marin et al. (2020), JBIS, 73, pp.239-247

Refcode: 2020.73.239
Keywords: Long-duration mission, Multi-generational space voyage, Space exploration, Space resource

The architecture of a large interstellar spaceship, which is capable of serving as a living environment for a population over many generations, is mainly dictated by the needs of said population in terms of food, water and breathable gases. These resources cannot be stored for the entire duration of a journey that goes on for several centuries, so they must be produced in situ. In order to determine the quantities necessary for the survival of the population, it is imperative to precisely estimate their needs. In this article, we focus on accurate simulations of the water and air (oxygen) requirements for any type of population in order to be able to provide precise constraints on the overall architecture of an interstellar ark (the requirements in terms of food having already been studied in a previous publication). We upgrade our agent-based, numerical, Monte Carlo code HERITAGE to include human physiological needs. Our simulations show that, for a crew of about 1100 crew members (each characterized with individual anthropometric and biological data), 1.8 108 litres of oxygen are annually required, together with 1.1 106 litres of water. Those results do not account for oxygen and water used in growing plants, but they give us an insight of how much resources are needed in the spaceship. We also review the best methods for generating water from waste gases (namely carbon dioxide and dihydrogen) and how such systems could complement the oxygen-supplying biospheres inside multi-generational spaceships to form a closed and controlled environment.

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