To Live Among the Stars: The Algatron and the Unfinished Odyssey to build an Environment for Space.
What happens when astronauts mix excrement and algae? Algae cupcakes, and the recipe to live in space. To Live in Space describes the little celebrated but fundamentally necessary work of the Soviet and American space programs to create artificial, ecological habitats for space stations, trips to Mars, and even generational journeys to other stars. In the early days of the space programs, habitat experiments’ major discovery was that self-sustaining ecosystem must incorporate humans themselves as a functional component alongside an array of other living things. This work has continued to the present: In 2016, NASA announced the “poop challenge,” just the most recent attempt to solve the problem of plumbing in space. But in fact from the outset of the Space Age, the space programs appreciated just how interconnected people were with their environment. In space, humans always were in the Anthropocene. Back on Earth the lessons of the space program let humanity know just how complex the problem of the “environment” really is, and how little was known about the various material and energy cycles and feedback loops that shape our tiny life-sustaining biosphere, even as humanity realized it had entered the Anthropocene, a period where human lives and societies are increasingly fundamentally altering the very climate and geology of Earth. Now more than ever, people need to know about the lessons learned from those first attempts to biologically enter and live in space.