Advantages of using subsurface flow constructed wetlands for wastewater treatment in space applications: Ground-based mars base prototype
Research and design of subsurface flow wetland wastewater treatment systems for a ground-based experimental prototype Mars Base facility has been carried out, using a subsurface flow approach. These systems have distinct advantages in planetary exploration scenarios: they are odorless, relatively low-labor and low-energy, assist in purification of water and recycling of atmospheric CO2, and will support some food crops. An area of 6-8 m2 may be sufficient for integration of wetland wastewater treatment with a prototype Mars Base supporting 4-5 people. Discharge water from the wetland system will be used as irrigation water for the agricultural crop area, thus ensuring complete recycling and utilization of nutrients. Since the primary requirements for wetland treatment systems are warm temperatures and lighting, such bioregenerative systems may be integrated into early Mars base habitats, since waste heat from the lights may be used for temperature maintenance in the human living environment. "Wastewater gardens ™" can be modified for space habitats to lower space and mass requirements. Many of its construction requirements can eventually be met with use of in-situ materials, such as gravel from the Mars surface. Because the technology requires little machinery and no chemicals, and relies more on natural ecological mechanisms (microbial and plant metabolism), maintenance requirements are minimized, and systems can be expected to have long operating lifetimes. Research needs include suitability of Martian soil and gravel for wetland systems, system sealing and liner options in a Mars Base, and wetland water quality efficiency under varying temperature and light regimes.