Military Review

Soviet Martian

Soviet Martian

How in Krasnoyarsk created the first in the world installation for autonomous survival in space

In the film Martian, the hero had to wait for the next expedition to arrive on the Red Planet with a small supply of water, food and air. American cinema tried to figure out how to do it, and Soviet scientists decided a similar task before creating a book about survival on Mars by Andy Weier.

Half a century ago, an installation was created at the Krasnoyarsk Institute of Physics of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, which would help the cosmonaut to survive on any planet without any special problems and outside help. The revolutionary, unparalleled in the world, the BIOS-3 closed-loop supply system almost completely provided the people inside it with water, oxygen, and food. It was enough to take with him a very small stock, and then everything was produced and cleaned by the system itself.

"Russian Planet" found out how Siberian scientists managed to get ahead of their time and colleagues.

Breathe with algae

“The first experiments on the creation of closed autonomous life support systems began in Krasnoyarsk at the end of 1960's,” Egor Zadereev, Ph.D. in Biological Sciences, Ph.D. in Biology, Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, tells the RP correspondent. - Scientists have found that in order for two people to live a year, they need about 300 kg of oxygen, 2,5 tons of water and 400 kg of food. At the same time, over the same period, they will emit 350 kg of carbon dioxide and a ton of waste that needs to be recycled. It remained to understand how to provide them with all this in an environment isolated from the outside world.

Experts conducted experiments and confirmed the hypothesis that the development potential of a living organism is higher than the realizable possibilities. When unicellular alga chlorella was placed in ideal conditions, it began to grow much faster and produce more oxygen than in the natural environment, as well as more actively process carbon dioxide.

Algae in a small tank was enough for a person to breathe normally all day, placing his face in a special hole that does not allow air to flow outside. So in 1964, they created a system with a closed reproduction cycle of oxygen "BIOS-1", which helped a person to breathe in airless space, for example, in space. Then the scientists were able to increase the time spent in a closed room from 12 hours to 30 days. Later, water exchange was also closed, which made it possible to conduct an 45 daily experience.

However, algae were useful only in order to provide humans with oxygen and rid of carbon dioxide. If there are no other plants in the closed space, then we will have to feed on algae too. It may be enough for the human body, but to maintain mental health on such a diet would be problematic.

In 1966, scientists launched experiments with vegetables and cereals, and as a result, built the installation "BIOS-2". It turned out that if the same wheat creates ideal conditions for growth - without temperature fluctuations, changing weather, weeds, then it will yield six times a year, and several times more than in natural conditions. Along the way, the researchers determined how much wheat should be sown in order to feed one person.

Bionauta in the bunker

“When Sergei Korolev, the founder of Russian cosmonautics, became aware of the experiments conducted at the Institute of Physics of the SB RAS, he became interested in them and met with the founder and director of the Krasnoyarsk Institute, academician Leonid Kirensky,” continues Yegor Zadereev. - At the personal order of the Queen, who needed an autonomous life support system for the station on the Moon, funds were allocated to continue research. They have allowed in record time, in just seven years to create an artificial ecosystem "BIOS-3".

Krasnoyarsk biophysicists received huge money for those times - 1 million rubles. With these funds, by the year 1972 they built a special bunker with stainless steel walls, isolated from the outside world, the total volume of which was a cube 315. m, and the area - 14х9х2,5 m.

The bunker was designed to stay in it three people and is divided into four parts. In one there were residential cabins with beds, a kitchen-dining room, a bathroom and a working area - a workshop-laboratory with equipment for processing the harvest, disposing of inedible biomass, as well as systems for the purification of water and air. The other three parts were intended for plants. Algae grew in a closed space and under artificial light, as well as selection varieties of soybeans, lettuce, cucumbers, radishes, carrots, beets, dill, cabbage, potatoes, onions. They regenerated water and oxygen, and also provided the “bionauts” with all the nutrients, vitamins and trace elements necessary for their existence. The dwarf wheat with a very short stem, specially bred by the Krasnoyarsk breeder Heinrich Lisovsky, also grew there: the inedible part of the ear was minimal and there was little waste. She gave a crop in 200 – 300 centners per hectare. And the Central Asian chufa herb provided people with vegetable oil.

So that people inside “BIOS” could communicate with the outside world, a sealed bunker was provided with a TV and a telephone. A cooling and power supply system was installed.

“At the beginning of 1970, three volunteers from among the employees first lived in the bunker for half a year - 180 days, from December 24 to 1972 of the year on June 22 of 1973 of the year,” says Yegor Zadereyev. - All the oxygen they breathed provided the plants they grew. They recycled carbon dioxide. Initially, the available supply of water was processed and purified to be reused.

There is a session of the next connection with the testers in the BIOS-3 installation. Connected tester V.V. Terek (in the porthole), photo 1973 of the year. Photo:

The participants in the experiment ate vegetables grown by themselves, collected and milled wheat and baked bread from it. So they received 300 grams of bread and 400 grams of vegetables per day. Animal protein "bionavtov" provide stocks of canned and freeze-dried meat. Constantly conducted medical observations showed that such a diet, as well as processed and purified water and air did not adversely affect the health of volunteers.

The experiment lasted only six months. It became clear that there was no point in continuing it: the closed-loop life support system created in BIOS was working perfectly. The artificially created conveyor for the production of water, oxygen and food does not fail. Of course, subject to the receipt of a large amount of electricity from the outside, but this problem in space or on any of the planets is easily solved with the help of a nuclear power plant or solar panels.

Year behind hermetic door

At the station "BIOS-3", simulating an extraterrestrial settlement, 10 experiments on autonomous survival took place. They were attended by crews of one to three people. Engineer Nikolai Bugreev lived longer than the rest of the “bionavts” in “BIOS-3” - a total of 13 months.

In 1968, the Krasnoyarsk development was considered at the XIX Congress of the International Astronautical Federation as one of the possible prototypes of the biological system for providing human life at the new stage of space exploration - during long expeditions. This has become a worldwide recognition of the achievements of Siberian biophysicists.

Scientists had to solve another fundamental problem - how to provide people in a confined space with not only plant food, but also protein food. One of the creators of "BIOS-3" academician Joseph Gitelzon put forward a revolutionary idea for those times - to use for this purpose genetically modified plants that will produce the desired animal protein. The problems of natural utilization of plant biomass and the return of salt excreted from the human body into the system intrasystem mass exchange also remained unresolved.

Scientists decided to repeat a successful experiment on Earth in space. Krasnoyarsk Institute began to prepare the first containers for growing plants in zero gravity, but then perestroika broke out. Due to the complete lack of funding, unique research that had no analogs in the world at that time had to be stopped, and BIOS-3 was conserved.

From left to right - participants of the 6 month experiment in BIOS-3: M.P. Shilenko, V.V. Tereskikh, N.I. Petrov, photo 1973 year. Photo:

Ark in the desert

Only 15 years later, in 1985, an attempt was made in the United States to conduct a similar experiment.

With the money of multi-millionaire Ed Bass in Arizona, they built a giant base "Biosphere-2" of airtight domes, which occupied an area of ​​12 thousand square meters. m. In this vast territory, scientists have reproduced terrestrial landscapes - desert, rainforest, savanna, even a small ocean with a coral reef, planted plants and brought hundreds of species of animals. It was assumed that all this will grow and multiply by itself and provide voluntary participants in the experiment with everything necessary for life.

“However, it soon became clear that there was a critical lack of oxygen, I had to open the windows so that the air would flow in from the outside,” says Sergei Olenin, corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences. - Then the plants began to ache and die, some species of animals died out. An incredible amount of cockroaches and ants bred. Food was not enough, it had to be imported from the outside. Two years later, the experiment was discontinued, although the creators of "Biosphere-2" expected that the artificial ecosystem could survive autonomously for at least 100 years.

After the unsuccessful first attempt, the American researchers made changes to the artificial world created by them and launched the second experiment in 2007. However, he was terminated for another reason: one of the participants in the new team of volunteers attacked the others during a quarrel. After that, the investor has lost interest in the project, and now this “Noah's Ark” in the middle of the desert is visited only by tourists.

- Last year, another experiment on autonomous survival was conducted in China. He received the name "Moon Palace-1", - continues Sergey Olenin. - Scientists, who actually completely repeated the Krasnoyarsk research, managed to provide participants with all the necessary food for 75% due to the fact that the need for protein was satisfied by the worms they grew. So they managed to live in offline mode for three months.

A world for experimentation

Now the European Space Agency has begun to show interest in Krasnoyarsk research. With money received in the form of grants, small experiments are being conducted at the Institute of Biophysics of the SB RAS, modern equipment for the bunker, built at the end of 1960's, is being purchased. An artificial soil-like substrate is created for growing plants. Experiments are being conducted on the physicochemical technology of the decomposition of organic substances into minerals, which can be returned to circulation in the form of salts for plant growth. The use of land snails is being studied for the production of the protein they need

However, the full-scale research of funds is not enough - this requires several tens of millions of dollars. Everyone understands that it is necessary to resume work on the creation of closed life support systems, since without them there can be no talk of serious space exploration, but everything depends on finances. "BIOS-3" is empty. Although this is the most successful experimental system that fully meets human needs for water, air and plant food through a closed biological cycle. It could already be used, if not yet on Mars or other planets, but on Earth. After all, it can be used to reduce the environmental damage that people inevitably cause hundreds of times, since BIOS-3 allows you to consume a minimum of resources and almost do not produce waste. Houses with a closed cycle would dramatically reduce the burden on the environment, and could also provide people with everything they need where it is difficult or expensive to get, for example, in remote Arctic zones, deserts or high mountains, under water.

- Another version of the use of "BIOS" - is to conduct experiments in it, which so far no one in the world. Everyone just talks about what will happen if, for example, the level of methane in the atmosphere reaches a critical one. Will a disaster happen or not? And in Krasnoyarsk they may not argue about this, but check what happens as a result in a small closed ecosystem, - Sergey Olenin argues. - And this is just one of the possible experiments that can be even not of great, but of colossal importance for all of humanity. You can study the processes of circulation of substances in the Earth's biosphere, and not just help people survive on other planets.
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  1. iv-nord
    iv-nord 25 October 2015 07: 31 New
    In my youth, I heard from friends from Akademgorodok about an interesting experiment. I am glad that the achievements are not forgotten.
    1. fennekRUS
      fennekRUS 25 October 2015 17: 39 New
      Quote: iv-nord
      I am glad that the achievements are not forgotten.

      not forgotten - not by us. Europeans are investing. "Now the European Space Agency has begun to show interest in Krasnoyarsk research." (C)
      How many discoveries and developments killed this-but then perestroika struck.
    2. Wild_grey_wolf
      Wild_grey_wolf 20 November 2015 10: 05 New
      Very informative article, what Minds. . .
  2. Tigrus
    Tigrus 25 October 2015 07: 58 New
    Article 5+ our fellows, we will soon fly to the moon and to Mars, and this will be a fact for everyone!
  3. Old26
    Old26 25 October 2015 10: 08 New
    The article is interesting, she +, but the beginning of it, with the mention of the movie "The Martian" is not to the point. Completely different situations to make comparisons
    1. fennekRUS
      fennekRUS 25 October 2015 17: 42 New
      Quote: Old26
      but the beginning of it, with the mention of the movie "The Martian"

      Well, you need to attract a wide audience with something familiar. Let’s look, out of a thousand, one will be interested and go a couple of steps further.
  4. LEX SU
    LEX SU 25 October 2015 12: 07 New
    Very interesting. Thank. I read it with pleasure
  5. Ale x
    Ale x 25 October 2015 12: 22 New
    Why are these links - are we cooler than them? reprint of
  6. Cosmos-1869
    Cosmos-1869 25 October 2015 14: 14 New
    Quote: Old26
    The article is interesting, she +, but the beginning of it, with the mention of the movie "The Martian" is not to the point. Completely different situations to make comparisons

    The flock wrote "girl", so the reference to a fashion film is quite natural. They think so wink .
  7. Sergey-8848
    Sergey-8848 25 October 2015 14: 37 New
    It turned out to be the easiest for the Chinese to solve the problem with animal proteins in their project due, so to speak, to the peculiarities of national cuisine. Even in the American "Biosphere-2" they would not be at all upset that someone there was too prolific.
  8. Old26
    Old26 25 October 2015 16: 21 New
    So far the only option, the real one is still a stock of products. And it makes no sense, for example, during an expedition to Mars lasting 30-6 days, to deploy an entire ecosystem. But one could think of greenhouses on the ship as an additional power source. That is just as optional.
  9. leks
    leks 25 October 2015 16: 53 New
    Quote: Old26
    The article is interesting, she +, but the beginning of it, with the mention of the movie "The Martian" is not to the point. Completely different situations to make comparisons

    Soon!? when is it ten, twenty or thirty years old? you probably forgot what Mr. Rogozin said his words " Experts tell me - let's explore the moon. I used to like this idea myself. Instead of flying in low-earth orbit, take and land on the lunar and continue to do the same, but on a natural satellite of the Earth. But how much will it cost? And what do we need on the moon? There can be no endless money. Or take the Mars exploration program. The Americans say: we are interested in Mars. Well, they will fly to Mars, well, they will prove that they can fly there. What's next?"-according to Rogozin, it turns out well Gagarin flew into space and that what the USSR had besides world recognition from this- It's a shame gentlemen that an official of this rank changes shoes so quickly on the go.
    That's all check and check will not be any flights to Mars and the moon of people, only automatic stations will fly. Reading or listening to his interview, in it he makes it clear that from a commercial point of view it is not profitable and there is no money in the budget for such space projects.
    So I am more inclined that the Americans fly to Mars in 2030–2040, and we will probably take a break even if we get out of the economic crisis.
    1. sa-ag
      sa-ag 25 October 2015 18: 52 New
      Quote: leks
      And what do we need on the moon?

      Mr. Rogozin finely swims, for example, to bring the RD-0410 engine to a series, otherwise only the tests were in the 70s, the Moon as a testing ground is very suitable, and by the way, doing it there
    2. Bayonet
      Bayonet 25 October 2015 20: 25 New
      Quote: leks
      I used to like this idea myself. Instead of flying in low Earth orbit, take and take a moon and continue to do the same,

      That is not it! Earth monitoring, weather observations and much more related to the Earth are much more convenient to do from orbit, and not from a distance of 384 km. - is not it ? smile Scientific experiments in light gravity too. Not to mention the difference in the cost of flights. hi
  10. Old26
    Old26 25 October 2015 17: 57 New
    Quote: leks
    Soon!? when is ten, twenty or thirty years old?

    These are not my words about the near future, to information.

    Do not pay attention to what Rogozin is "broadcasting" about. Alone, as in the days of 60-70, flying is now of course stupid and expensive. Expeditions must be international. as it is cheaper. And if we talk about priorities, then we will never come out ahead, if we follow Rogozin's logic
  11. Alexdark
    Alexdark 25 October 2015 18: 02 New
    And by the way, the film is not bad, I advise. And there is no American "cranberry" in it, such as "best / exceptional / savemir".
  12. Reptiloid
    Reptiloid 25 October 2015 18: 09 New
    Thanks for the article, I liked it very much !!! Someone thinks that we have nothing to do in Space. This is not so! We always have to strive! Our first thought about Cosmonautics was expressed more than 100 years ago by the great Fedorov, teacher Tsiolkovsky! A huge contribution to the creation and The development of Soviet Cosmonautics was introduced by I.V. STALIN. In the difficult years for the USSR, research was carried out in this area. The result came after many years. It is a pity that Stalin did not see this. In no case should one renounce the Beautiful and, by the way, the necessary !!! On the Moon and Astaroids --- minerals (including very rare metals in the MENTAL form). On Jupiter and Saturn --- a huge amount of petroleum hydrocarbons. On Mars --- iron ore, on Venus --- selenium and tellurium in its pure form (deposits). if, well, what if we discover TAM Life? Then the value of flights of PEOPLE, including RUSSIANs to the Moon and beyond, makes more sense.
    1. sa-ag
      sa-ag 25 October 2015 18: 49 New
      Quote: Reptiloid
      On Jupiter and Saturn --- a huge amount of petroleum hydrocarbons.

      Well, as if on satellites, for example on Titan, although taking off from there is a non-trivial task, it’s the same as from Earth
  13. Gormenghast
    Gormenghast 31 October 2015 17: 51 New
    I must say that the Soviet testers were very bad.

    And there was also such a Soviet hero John (his father so called; why - I do not remember) Gridunov. He was the only one in the world to withstand shock overload at 50G and long, in a centrifuge, at 19G.

    He is the only one, without a spacesuit, but in a high-altitude-compensating leaky suit he climbed to a height of 30000 meters - when the water next to him began to boil at room temperature. He survived the entire flight around the Moon, in a depressurized spacecraft (when he had to be in a spacesuit for 7 days), but he could not get off "in big".
  14. Concealer
    Concealer 4 November 2015 06: 07 New
    I know the excellent use of this system, and even commercial. Moreover, I know how to get state funding for this. Who is doing there now?
  15. Wild_grey_wolf
    Wild_grey_wolf 20 November 2015 10: 07 New
    I wanted to read the article and it didn’t work out, but then I accidentally came across and did not regret it, very INTERESTING.