In December 2017, DLR scientist Paul Zabel relocated to the Antarctic with the EDEN ISS greenhouse. He will remain there for one year, during which he will be a member of the winter crew of the Neumayer III Antarctic station, which is operated by the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI). "Cucumbers, radishes, peppers, lettuce and herbs have already been grown during tests conducted in Bremen," says Project Coordinator Daniel Schubert from the DLR Institute of Space Systems. "By providing special artificial light, an ideal temperature and selected nutrients entirely without soil, we are able to grow our plants more quickly and with a higher yield than in their natural environment." From a practical perspective, the healthy produce and innovative technology is enriching the diet of the Neumayer III overwinter crew while at the same time simulating the supply scenario for a human mission to Mars. "In addition to testing plant cultivation, we are also excited to be finding out how the station team responds to the fresh additions to their menu," Schubert continues. "I am sure the strawberries will be a particular delight."
Zabel is enjoying his extended field mission, which he believes feels further from Germany than is actually the case. “We will not see the Sun during the polar nights, and we are thousands of kilometres from home with no immediate way of returning,” says Zabel. "So it does feel a bit like journeying to a distant planet."
The Antarctic greenhouse EDEN ISS has weathered the polar night – as well as Antarctic storms and temperatures below minus 40 degrees Celsius – in its practical test under the direction of the German Aerospace Center (DLR). It has been yielding herbs, lettuce and freshly harvested vegetables to the 10-member overwintering crew in the Alfred Wegener Institute’s Neumayer Station III for the first time since the beginning of 2018. After more than half a year of operation in Antarctica, the self-sufficient greenhouse concept appears to be effective for climatically demanding regions on Earth, as well as for future manned missions to the Moon and Mars. DLR researcher Paul Zabel is overcoming challenges, as well as acquiring knowledge from cultivating plants under such harsh conditions. To the overwintering team, the fresh greens are a welcome change during their long-term isolation. Zabel will report on his experiences in a live transmission from Antarctica on 13 September 2018.
The EDEN ISS greenhouse has been in the Antarctic for nearly six months, and for four of these, Paul Zabel from the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) has been operating the greenhouse on his own. It is now fully operational. Paul Zabel harvests an average of 740 grams of tomatoes, 1.8 kilograms of cucumbers, and 400 grams of kohlrabi every week, in addition to various herbs, lettuce and radish varieties.
While the temperatures in the Antarctic gradually drop below 20 degrees Celsius and the Sun barely rises above the horizon, the plants being cultivated in the experimental greenhouse EDEN ISS are growing and thriving. After the first three weeks, Paul Zabel from the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) has, over the last few days, harvested the first crops in the cold environment.
The time has come: the EDEN ISS laboratory in the Antarctic has been set up, the first seedlings have been placed in the growth cabinets, and after eight weeks, the majority of the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) team has returned to Germany.
Counting leaves and weighing cucumbers: DLR scientist Paul Zabel will be leaving to Antarctica in Dezember 2017 on his one-year expedition as part of the EDEN ISS project. In DLR´s blog he describes the tasks and challenges he will face.
EDEN ISS - Ground demonstration of plant cultivation technologies for safe food production in space. On the project website DLR scientist Paul Zabel and the EDEN ISS team publish news and info about the project.
Working and living in the eternal ice. The Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) operates the Neumayer Station III in Antarctica since 2009.