Innovative underground lab paves the way for human survival trials on Moon and Mars

(UI) — More than a kilometer under North Yorkshire in an abandoned mine, the secret to allowing people to live on planets like Mars or the Moon is being tested, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle reported.

In order to study how scientific and medical procedures will go in difficult extraterrestrial circumstances, scientists converted deep tunnels 1.1 km beneath the countryside into an underground lab.

In the research facility at one of the UK's deepest mining sites, University of Birmingham researchers have started the Bio-SPHERE (Biomedical Sub-surface Pod for Habitability and Extreme-environments Research in Expeditions) project.

It is the first of several new labs that will be built to research how people could function and stay healthy throughout protracted space journeys, which is essential for maintaining mission continuity on distant worlds.

The 3,000 square meter tunnel network that runs through rock salt deposits that date back 250 million years is the foundation of the Bio-SPHERE project.

Researchers have been able to model the operating circumstances people would encounter working in such tunnels on the Moon and Mars by utilizing the geological setting and the deep subsurface location.

This includes difficulty moving large pieces of equipment and remoteness, as well as restricted access to fresh supplies.

Scientists will be able to examine how well underground shelters may shield space personnel from deep-space radiation thanks to the extremely low radiation environment made possible by the depth.

This might pose a serious risk in space travel, along with other dangers like meteorite debris that may fall and harm the infrastructure that supports life.

According to the Wyoming Eagle Tribune, lead researcher Dr. Alexandra Iordachescu, from the University of Birmingham's School of Chemical Engineering, stated: “This new capability will help to gather information that can advise on the life support systems, devices and biomaterials which could be used in medical emergencies and tissue repair following damage in deep-space missions.

“These types of metrics can guide system design and help to assess the scientific needs and acceptable timeframes in bioengineering operations under the constraints of isolated environments, such as space habitats.

"The data is likely to bring numerous benefits for Earth-based applications as well, such as delivering biomedical interventions in remote areas or in hazardous environments and more generally, understanding biomedical workflows in these non-ideal environments.”

A three-meter-wide simulation module serves as the foundation of the first Bio-SPHERE facility, which was built with the express purpose of testing biomedical techniques required to manufacture materials for repairing tissue damage.

These include intricate fluids, polymers, and hydrogels for regenerative medicine that might be utilized, for instance, as fillers to lessen damage or in wound dressings.

This setting offers the chance to carry out cutting-edge, multidisciplinary science while simulating diverse mission circumstances.

This might include looking into how harsh conditions affect biological and medical systems or looking into how 'in-situ' resources like ambient pressure, temperature, and geology can be exploited to build habitats.

The project is being managed in collaboration with the 4,000 square meter Boulby Underground Laboratory, a research facility for astrobiology, Earth sciences, and particle physics located next to the Bio-SPHERE facility.

With the assistance of the Boulby Mine operators, it is managed by the Science and Technology Facilities Council, a division of UK Research and Innovation.

According to the Wyoming Eagle Tribune, Professor Sean Paling, director and senior scientist at the Boulby Underground Laboratory said: "The challenges ahead for humankind in exploring habitats beyond Earth are clearly many and significant.

"The Bio-SPHERE project promises to help answer some key logistical questions in establishing sustainable living conditions in remote, subterranean environments and in doing so will significantly contribute to the essential preparations for our collective long, difficult and exciting journey ahead.

"It is also a great example of the diverse range of scientific studies that can be carried out in a deep underground science facility, and we are very happy to be hosting it.”

Recently, the journal Nature (NPJ) Microgravity published an article outlining the idea and layout of such a habitat.

This story was originally published by Jim Leffman at SWNS via the Wyoming Eagle Tribune.

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