The role of synthetic biology for in situ resource utilization (ISRU)

Michael Montague, George H. McArthur, Charles S. Cockell, Jason Held, William Marshall, Louis A. Sherman, Norman Wang, Wayne L. Nicholson, Daniel R. Tarjan, John Cumbers

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


A persistent presence in space can either be supported from Earth or generate the required resources for human survival from material already present in space, so called "in situ material." Likely, many of these resources such as water or oxygen can best be liberated from in situ material by conventional physical and chemical processes. However, there is one critical resource required for human life that can only be produced in quantity by biological processes: high-protein food. Here, recent data concerning the materials available on the Moon and common asteroid types is reviewed with regard to the necessary materials to support the production of food from material in situ to those environments. These materials and their suitability as feedstock for the biological production of food are reviewed in a broad and general way such that terminology that is often a barrier to understanding such material by interdisciplinary readers is avoided. The waste products available as in situ materials for feasibility studies on the International Space Station are also briefly discussed. The conclusion is that food production in space environments from in situ material proven to exist there is quite feasible.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1135-1142
Number of pages8
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Asteroid
  • Astrobiology
  • Biomineralogy
  • Cyanobacteria

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'The role of synthetic biology for in situ resource utilization (ISRU)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this