When astronauts finally make it to Mars, they are going to need to be able to provide their own food. Thankfully, NASA has just unveiled inflatable greenhouses that will make life a little easier than Mark Watney had it.

The new invention comes to us from a collaboration between the space association and researchers at the University of Arizona. The inflatable greenhouse may be the key to providing astronauts with fresh food while on deep space missions. It works by created a closed-look system that is integrated with the astronauts’ life support. The carbon dioxide exhaled from the people is ported to plants, who use it as food and then convert it back into oxygen for the humans. It would use water that could either be carried on the mission or gathered on planet (if there is any).

As to what plants they plan to grow in space, that’s a question that’s still being figured out. They are also still trying to figure out how to protect the plants from the radiation of space. The best current plan involves burying them under the soil of the new planets like root cellars. On earth, LED lighting has been proven as an extremely viable alternative to natural sunlight in many indoor hydroponic growing operations. They hope to also be able to incorporate light concentrators that use fiber optic bundles to channel natural sunlight from the outside.

Source: Inhabitat