The Utilization Initial Testing of the Closed Loop Enthalpy Recovery DRYER System in Biological Environmental Systems for Microgravity Environments
Litman, Elizabeth M.
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Scientists and biologists at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration have dedicated thousands of man hours over the last 30 years searching for one important substance on distant heavenly bodies: water. It has often been theorized that a necessary component for almost certain existence of life elsewhere in the universe is the existence of liquid water on that body. The recent possible discovery of frozen water on Mars illustrates both the necessity and excitement of this substance considered common on Earth. The additional discovery of a possible ice geyser on Enceladus, one of Saturn's 18 moons, has prompted the possibility of other hospitable locations further out in the universe (1). Extended human missions into deeper space, as well as the beginnings of the lunar outpost, have a few necessary factors for sustaining astronauts. The basic needs that we take for granted on Earth are devoid in space. The ability to safely and effectively recover water, oxygen, carbon sources and many other substances are important to moving from simply visiting space to becoming sustainable fixtures. The ability to recover the water used by crew members is closely linked to the possible length of future missions (2). Creating a contained biome on a distant body means that every important substance must be recycled and reused. When looking at water recovery on lunar, Mars and microgravity missions, there are a few different factors that must be considered. The safety of the crew, the duration of the mission, the energy draw of the machines, the autonomy of the machine in conjunction with other steps, the variety of moving parts and the amount of space taken up in the cabin by the apparatus. Research done by Dr. Michael Flynn at the NASA Ames Research Center have shown that being able to recover 100% of the water that would otherwise be lost or jettisoned out of the cabin would save approximately $2.9 billion by ridding the need for additional water (4). There are many important substances from which the water must be recovered on an extended mission. These include food wastes, human metabolic wastes, inedible biomass and trash, salt brines and, eventually, crew clothing and composts. All these necessities must be addressed to establish the 10-year base on the moon (3). In addition, these hazardous substances must be contained in a space efficient manner until their resources must be utilized. A simple, new method, a closed loop dryer system was tested at Ames Research Laboratories. Called the "DRYER" and produced through an SBIR/STTR grant with the help of Orbitec Technologies and Cornell University, this method was compared to other ways of drying out and containing various substances.
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