As nations try to explore Mars, Japanese scientists have begun research into space agriculture, aiming to provide a secure recycling system to support human habitation.
They are attempting to find out if a system based on hyper-thermophilic aerobic compost can be used to recycle materials to support human life in space.
Recycling of human waste is a challenge in space agriculture. Direct administration of human waste to a plant cultivation system is known to cause severe problems, said Masamichi Yamashita, a researcher at the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science.
"Without appropriate processing, use of human waste would result in poor production of crops, and cause a high risk of spreading pathogenic bacteria that is propagated by rich organic substances," he said.
According to Yamashita, this microbial technology has been already well established to process sewage and waste in small local communities in Japan.
"This is a mature and very promising technology," he said in his presentation at the 36th Assembly of the Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) in Beijing.
But he also stressed safety is paramount. "It might take 100 years from now to implement this microbial composting system on Mars," he told Xinhua.