Human exploration beyond Low Earth Orbit (LEO) will require technologies regenerating resources like air and water, and producing fresh food while recycling consumables and waste. Bioregenerative Life Support Systems (BLSSs) are artificial ecosystems in which appropriately selected organisms, including bacteria, algae and higher plants, are assembled in consecutive steps of recycling, to reconvert the crew waste into oxygen, potable water and edible biomass. Higher plants are considered the most promising biological regenerators to accomplish these functions, thanks to their complementary relationship with humans, however, cultivation in Space requires the knowledge of their response to Space factors (e.g. altered gravity and ionizing radiation) and specific cultivation conditions (e.g. controlled environment, hydroponic systems). This article summarises the most relevant research on higher plants achieved in view of their cultivation in an extraterrestrial environment.
Keywords: Bioregenerative Life Support Systems (BLSSs), artificial ecosystem, altered gravity, ionizing radiation, controlled environment