News Archives

Could plants control robots on Mars?

March 29, 2021 - by Rachel Whitt

From the UNM Newsroom:

A team of interdisciplinary researchers at UNM is teaching robots to take care of plants on Mars – a big step towards having viable food available for astronauts when they land on the Red Planet.

Architects, biologists, computer scientists and engineers are collaborating to develop real world tests and simulations as part of the Conservatory for Healthy Ingestion on Long-Interval Human-Occupied Unexplored Space Explorations (CHILI HOUSE) team. Their idea is to use robots to autonomously water and grow New Mexico chile peppers on Mars, the same variety of chile that will soon be growing on the International Space Station.

The UNM CHILI HOUSE Team plans on using Swarmie robots –smaller, simpler machines than the current Mars rovers– and newly developed water sensors to nurture the plants remotely and autonomously.

“Astronauts will need to have freshly grown plants for nutrition as well for mental health,” explained UNM Biology Professor Dave Hanson, who researches plant productivity and space biology. “Ideally, fresh food would be available when astronauts arrive to Mars and be maintained continuously on both the moon and Mars without human intervention.”

Read the full story