Orbital space settlements will be located between the planets. While the
Sun will provide ample reliable energy, there are essentially no material
resources in the immediate vicinity. All materials will need to be transported
from Earth, the Moon, the asteroids, comets, or other planets and their
moons. Thus, the space colony designer may assume ample energy but must
conserve materials. Therefore, the life support system of the colony should
recycle all materials. Since we would prefer a life support system
consisting primarily of plants, animals, and single-celled organisms, our
life support system may be described as an ecosystem. Because our space
colony's ecosystem is does not import or export materials, we call it a
Space settlement ecosystem components
Abiotic - Nonliving Components
Biotic - Living Components
Life Support, Jim Atwater. This World Wide Web site presents
an overview of current Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS)
technologies deployed aboard the Shuttle Orbiter, the Russian Mir Space
Station, and those to be deployed aboard International Space Station in
the near future. A guide to the literature of evolving Advanced Life Support
Systems which will be required for future long duration missions to the
Moon and Mars is also provided.
Closed ecosystem construction and observation
In this lesson each student or team builds a close ecosystem and observes
its development and/or decay. Then, optionally, the class develops
hypotheses based on the observations and runs experiments on a number of
closed ecosystems to test the hypotheses.
Prepare the closed ecosystem
Get a large clear bottle with a cap.
Collect several plants, small animals, some soil, and some water. The water
may contain pond scum or other living material.
Place the collected materials into the bottle.
If possible, puts a thermometer and/or other instruments into the bottle
so that you can read them after the bottle is sealed.
Put the cap on the bottle and seal the space between the cap and bottle
with melted wax or other air-tight material.
Place the bottle where it will receive at least indirect light. This is
the energy source.
The class now has a number of closed ecosystems.
At regular intervals record the ecosystem's condition.
Note the temperature and instrument readings if available.
Describe the color and other observable characteristics of the ecosystem's
Enter this information into a notebook.
If quantitative information is recorded, create a chart of the data and
calculate the mean, standard deviation, and range.
Try to determine whether each ecosystem was truly closed. It is quite
likely that most of the initial closed ecosystems will die very rapidly.
That's ok. Most things fail the first time. That's why we do this with
bottles not astronauts.
Design and run experiments
Examine the records and discuss the results of the closed ecosystems
Form one or more hypotheses to explain why some ecosystems lived longer
For each hypothesis:
Create two sets of 5-10 closed ecosystems where the sets differ in only
one aspect chosen to test the hypothesis.
Observe the development of these ecosystems.
Determine if the hypothesis was correct.
Write a report describing the hypothesis, background information, experimental
method, and results. Discuss the meaning of the results in the last section
of the report.