Arthur Clarke Mars Greenhouse Status Report July 10, 2003
By: Alain Berinstain, Arthur Clarke Mars Greenhouse Principal Investigator
The 2003 field season is off to a great start and the activities surrounding
the Arthur Clarke Mars Greenhouse are in full swing. Of course, there have
been many months of planning in order to be efficient with the four short
weeks we have to implement this year's objectives. In 2002, the objectives
were to first build the greenhouse and second, to monitor the inside of the
greenhouse with a suite of sensors characterizing the reactions of the
inside of the greenhouse to the varied weather conditions of the arctic.
Basic information was collected during the field season which demonstrated
that, even during the summer months, we both need to cool and to heat the
greenhouse, depending on the weather and on the time of day, in order to
keep the temperature inside at plant-friendly levels.
With this basic information, we were able to spend many months designing the
next phase of the greenhouse development and research. The main objective
for 2003 is to go from a monitoring-only mode to a controlled environment
mode. Cooling is achieved using exhaust fans and heating is achieved using
propane heaters. A hydroponic plant growth system is being installed, using
an automated ebb and flow water and nutrient delivery system, with
continuous temperature, pH, and electrical conductivity measurements.
Secondary objectives for this year's activities are related to the fact that
the 5-6 weeks of the HMP field season are really too short to study and grow
most crops. The camp is reliant on a large diesel generator for power and a
large satellite dish for communications, for the entire camp. When the camp
is taken down each season, the greenhouse loses power and communications.
This has lead us to design and begin to implement an independent power and
communications system for the greenhouse. Power will be provided using a
wind-solar hybrid system and comms through a packet terminal. Once in full
operation, this system will provide sufficient power to run all systems and
will allow for a much longer field season with full telemetry and commanding
capability from our home sites. Greenhouse operations will go into a "safe
mode" in the fall and restart remotely in the spring. A video camera will
provide information on greenhouse status and on crop health and status. We
also intend to make the live information available on the web.
The team is working very hard to implement these major improvements this
year and all is on schedule to complete primary and secondary objectives, as
long as no unforeseen circumstances occur. We look forward to posting more
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