With the arrival and unloading of the EDEN ISS greenhouse at the edge of the Antarctic ice shelf, the construction process has begun. In the coming weeks, a team from the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) will set up the greenhouse, designed for extreme environments, just 400 metres from the German Neumayer Station III in the Antarctic. It will be run by the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI), which is working on the EDEN ISS project together with DLR.
The Antarctic is the ideal test site for growing vegetables under artificial light and without soil in a sealed system, where all water is recycled and no pesticides or insecticides are required. The test will demonstrate the cultivation of crop plants in deserts, in areas on Earth with low temperatures, as well as for future manned missions to the Moon and Mars. "If we sow punctually at the start of February, I hope to be able to harvest the first lettuce leaves and radishes at the end of March," says Paul Zabelof the DLR. Zabel will remain behind during the Antarctic winter months to look after the plants.
From 21 May to 22 July, the Sun does not rise above the horizon in the area of Neumayer Station III, which lies at a latitude of around 70 degrees south, and temperatures can fall to less than minus 40 degrees Celsius. "Our menu will certainly be enriched when Paul adds fresh vegetables straight from the greenhouse to our food supplies," said Bernhard Gropp from AWI, who, from February 2018, will take over as station leader for the coming winter season. During the Antarctic winter of 2018, a team of 10 scientists, engineers, a cook and a doctor, will live on Neumayer Station III. "We are interested in seeing whether the fresh food will produce a positive psychological effect," said Gropp. In the Antarctic summer season, from November to February, supplies of fresh fruit, vegetables and lettuce arrive by air from South Africa every three to four weeks. The last delivery of fresh food reaches the station at the end of February. Up to now, this meant that no fresh lettuce, tomatoes or cucumbers were available until the following November. Initial plans are to run the EDEN ISS greenhouse until December 2018.