Siberian Scientists Create ‘Micro-Earth’ Capable of Sustaining Human Life in Hostile Environments


Siberian scientists may have created a revolutionary new system that will allow us to create oxygen, water and food in the hostile environments seen on the Moon, Mars and many other planets. The BIOS-3, or the Biological Support System, was created in a scientific institute in the city of Krasnoyarsk, with the aim of creating a ‘micro-earth’ capable of sustaining human life of desolate planets.

“BIOS-3, or the Biological Support System, is an experiment which was started in the early sixties of the last century. The idea was very simple and consists of an attempt to create a prototype of a future station on a different planet, for example, on the Moon or on Mars, outside the biosphere,” Egor Zadereev, Senior Research Scientist at the Institute of Biophysics, told RT.

Scientists first began working to create a ‘micro-earth’ back in 1965, in anticipation for long space missions. Human test subjects were shut inside the enclosed ecosystem for up to 180-days. Senior engineer Nikolai Bugreyev, 74, spent a total of 13 months inside BIOS-3, earning him the nickname the ‘Siberian Martian’.

“I lived in this compartment. It’s really small but it was enough, it’s just 5 square metres. There was a table, a bed, a shelf for clothes, and that was it, you don’t really need anything else,” he told the Siberian Times.

“You could see outside of the round window, there were colleagues walking there, researchers, they were waving to us. But we couldn’t really speak because you couldn’t hear anything through the walls. We used a special phone if there was need. Relatives would visit at the weekends,” he added.

The research and the experiments required for the mico-Earth were highly demanding, often lasting all day. During the night, the “bionauts” were monitored by doctors via wires, but there have never been any health issues, according to the engineer.

BIOS-3, the third generation solution to sustaining human life in hostile environments, was constructed in 1972. The autonomous enclosed life-support system is, essentially, a hermetic room about 315 cubic meter large (14x9x2.5m). Built in the basement of the institute, the room was split in four spaces linked by hermetically sealed doors.

One of the spaces was a household compartment with a kitchen and a bathroom. The other three spaces, which were designed to regenerate the environment, contained plants that were carefully selected to provide a suitable diet for the bionauts.

The diet consisted of wheat, soy beans, salad, chufa (cyperus esculentus), carrot, radish, beetroot, potato, cucumbers, cabbage, and onion, which were grown in a greenhouse, with artificial lighting.

The plants also served as a means of recycling carbon dioxide, producing the oxygen needed to sustain human life, and supported the system’s water cycle.

Livestock was not introduced to the system, so butter and animal proteins were taken in tins.  In order to successfully introduce animals into the system, scientists would need to make BIOS-3 bigger.

Biological Support Systems have often been touched upon in the movie industry, the most recent example being ‘The Martian’, the film adaptation of the 2011 science fiction novel written by Andy Weir. After the film’s release, discussions surrounding the accuracy of the science involved began to flood the Internet.

“Our scientists went to this movie because it is interesting to comment on whether what was happening on Mars in this film was real or unreal,” Zadereev said. 

Today, the BIOS-3 team is focusing itself on smaller-scale programs; a larger program will require a number of resources the team does not currently have access too. As a result, the team is working to boost the system’s sustainability, make the air clearer, grow more food, gradually refurbish BIOS-3 and adapt it to modern conditions.

Image: Flickr, Kevin Gill

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