NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC
Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX

October 8, 1997


The next phase of testing of regenerative life support systems has begun at NASA's Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX. A crew of four is being maintained in an air-tight chamber environment for 90 days testing life support systems for future space exploration missions, such as a mission to Mars.

Phase III of the Lunar-Mars Life Support Test Project began on Sept. 19, 1997. It is the fourth in a series of tests being conducted at Johnson. This phase uses a combination of physical, mechanical, and biological methods to recycle air and water. The four-person crew will spend more than 90 days investigating the use of biological, mechanical, and chemical means to recycle all their air and water and provide some of their food. Regenerative life support is a critical enabling technology for future human deep-space missions, since astronauts cannot carry the supplies necessary to support a trip to Mars or a base on the Moon.

The test crew members for Phase III are Crew Commander Dr. Nigel Packham (36, Lockheed-Martin Life Support System Scientist); Vickie Kloeris (41, NASA Shuttle Food System Manager), John Lewis (30, Lockheed-Martin Life Support System Engineer) and Laura Supra (28, Allied Signal Life Support System Engineer). They plan to remain in the chamber until late December to evaluate the effectiveness of advanced regenerative life support systems.

The current test utilizes biological systems for the primary means of water recovery and employs a combination of mechanical and biological systems to revitalize the air. A module containing wheat crops will be linked to the test chamber to provide up to 25 percent of the crew's oxygen from the carbon dioxide produced by the crew in the 20-foot chamber. Water consumed by the crew will be recycled using a unique biological and physical/chemical water recovery system designed at Johnson. Solid waste from the crew will be incinerated to produce additional carbon dioxide to sustain plant growth for air revitalization and food production.

The team members will provide daily status reports on the operation of the life support systems, as well as crew habitability criteria. The prime and backup crews also will conduct fourteen demonstration projects during the test including both physiological and psychological medical investigations and evaluations of food systems and of astronaut training techniques.

The current test continues investigations begun on three previous tests, conducted in August 1995, June-July 1996, and January-March 1997. In the first test, Packham spent fifteen days in a 10-foot chamber using a crop of wheat plants to recycle breathing air. A 30-day test followed in 1996 with four volunteers in the 20-foot chamber evaluating the effectiveness of advanced mechanical and chemical systems to recycle air and water. The third test employed mechanical and chemical systems functionally similar to those planned for use aboard the International Space Station to purify air and water supplies for 60 days.

The latest information about the chamber test, including daily updates from the crew, can be found at the Phase III web site.

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