Microbes could turn human waste into food for astronauts

We've all had bad food at some point and thought that it really tasted like crap. Scientists are going to take crap food to a new high with the goal of helping to sustain humans during long-term manned missions in space. The scientists have created a method of turning human waste into a food source.

The process uses microbes to break down solid and liquid waste, which is a nicer way to say feces and urine. As the microbes break down the solid and liquid waste a substance is created that has protein and fats in it. The food source created by the microbes is edible "either directly or indirectly, depending on safety concerns."

Scientists on the project say that the material would be a bit like Marmite or Vegemite with the astronauts eating a "smear of microbial goo." The process involves anaerobic digestion to break down materials in an environment without oxygen. This method is used on earth for treating waste.

In testing the anaerobic digestion process produced methane, which the scientists then used to grow another microbe called Methylococcus capsulatus. That microbe strain is used as animal feed with 52% protein and 36% fat content. It is a potential food source for humans.

The scientists admit that the method isn't ready for application yet, but it could potentially solve a problem with getting enough food to sustain humans on long space flights. This new method is also able to quickly break down the waste making it faster than growing tomatoes or potatoes.

SOURCE: Independent