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NASA Wants to Turn Human Waste into Food


NASA has awarded a grant of $200,000 to researchers at Clemson University in South Carolina to find out ways of recycling human waste into synthetic food that could be consumed by astronauts during long space journeys, Times of India reports.

"If you want to send people into space for a long period of time you can't go down to the Home Depot to get screws, or the market to get food; it's difficult, as space is at a premium," said Mark Blenner, a professor in Clemson University's chemical and bioengineering department.

Blenner is genetically engineering yeast to produce things that astronauts might need during a space journey. He is using human waste such as urine and breathed-out carbon dioxide to create onboard items.

"A particular strain of yeast can be genetically manipulated to create polymers, or plastics, used for 3D printing, as well as Omega 3s, which lower heart disease risk, and protect skin and hair," Mark Blenner, professor at Clemson, was quoted as saying in a Quartz report.

"These early career researchers will provide fuel for NASA's innovation engine," said Steve Jurczyk, associate administrator for NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate, according to Times of India. 

NASA wants to land humans on Mars by 2030. Blenner's idea is appealing as it allows astronauts to be more self-sufficient on long-term space missions and recycle as much as they possibly can.

NASA is also funding other research projects that will aid its long-term space missions. These include the production of more efficient solar panels and better thermal protection for the space ships entering atmospheres.

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