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A greenhouse in Antarctica that is partly maintained remotely from Germany has survived through the polar winter for the first time.
Regularly withstanding temperatures below minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 40 degrees Celsius), the greenhouse provided herbs, lettuce and other vegetables to 10 people who were riding out the winter in the remote station, called the Alfred Wegener Institute’s Neumayer Station III. It’s the first time the greenhouse operated through the winter. “After more than half a year of operation in Antarctica, the self-sufficient greenhouse concept appears to be effective for climatically demanding regions on Earth, as well as for future manned missions to the moon and Mars,” DLR officials said in the statement.
“The harvests are now so plentiful that some of it does not always make it straight to the table, and we now have the luxury of spreading out our consumption of some refrigerated lettuce and herbs over several days,” Paul Zabel, a DLR researcher who works with EDEN ISS, said in the statement. “The overwintering team members are always looking forward to their next fresh meal.”
From a space exploration perspective, the most interesting aspect of this story is that, when the weather was too hostile for its Antarctic maintainer to reach it, the greenhouse was then maintained remotely from Germany, for up to three consecutive days. Clearly hands-on maintenance is necessary for such a facility, but to design it so that remote maintenance can occur is a technical capability that space-colonists are definitely going to want to have.