C.E.B.A.S. AQUATIC ECOSYSTEM
ARE FISH REPRODUCTIVE IN OUTER SPACE?
The original C.E.B.A.S. model was developed through the study of past Bio-regenerative life support system experiments that included food production, atmospheric regeneration, and water recycling as key features. Its main goal was to explore the reproductive capabilities of numerous aquatic organisms, animals and plants immersed in the conditions of space over extended periods of time. The introduction of tetrapods (four-footed animals) into the system caused several problems, ultimately leading to the creation of fish aquaculture. The primary concept of the original model was to simultaneously develop and test an aquatic habitat under space conditions, and enhance the research of the Botanical Component in space utilizing a microbial bioreactor. The original C.E.B.A.S. model was designed to carry a volume up to 150 liters, where as the C.E.B.A.S. Mini Module was designed to carry about 10 liters.
C.E.B.A.S. Mini Module consisted of three sections, two of which were ground laboratories and the third of flight hardware. These models contained five compartments including the main animal tank (5 liters), bacteria filter (1.5 liters), semi-biological coarse filter (1 liter), illuminated plant module (1.5 liters), and a small animal tank (1 liter). The system was also composed of one to two 4 watt fluorescent lamps to aid the plants, and a rotatory pump to circulate the water through the system. Not only was the light essential to the photosynthesis of the plants, but also to the fish aquaculture. Light, at certain levels, rouses the reproductive system within fish, which was key to the development of the C.E.B.A.S. system. Because of this discovery, the Mini Module has been frequently used as a prototype for artificial ecosystem research, -relative to the interaction of whole systems- and for its individual components.
Overall, the engineered aquatic ecosystem contained mainly fish and/or water snails, as well as bacteria and water plants. The bacteria aided the system by oxidizing ammonia, while the water plants provided oxygen to the system and acted as the primary food source. The carbon dioxide produced by the animals fed back into the plants, while the waste produced by the animals got filtered into a bacteria system. It was predicted that this part of the closed system would be minimally affected by conditions in space. This was proven to be true in C.E.B.A.S. MINI MODULE. The behavior of fish and snails remained normal in space as they were seen interacting with others, orienting themselves correctly, and reproducing properly. The performance of the plants in space was similar to that on ground, with only a minor disarrangement of cells, which did not compromise photosynthesis. The C.E.B.A.S. Mini Module maintains biological stability in the time frame required for a spacelab mission of around three to four weeks, where as the Original C.E.B.A.S. model is self-sufficient for up to nine months.
LIMITATIONS IN OPERATION TIME: The high increase of plant production disrupts the balance of the system causing limitations in overall operation time.
LEAKAGE: Tank leakage in the second of the Original C.E.B.A.S. tests.
LIGHT SENSORY FAILURE: Light sensory failure, indicating the system needs to become more robust.