Future life-support systems for humans in space will be "bioregenerative," meaning that other living things will help recycle wastes and will provide the essential needs of human beings. Green plants and algae will generate oxygen and produce food for humans while purifying waste water. The process of PHOTOSYNTHESIS, which involves the trapping of light energy into a useful chemical form by the plant pigment chlorophyll, is a key process in the success of a bioregenerative life-support system. Plants, too, will benefit from human presence in a CLOSED recycling system. In light, they will fix the carbon dioxide produced as a by-product of human respiration and grow as a result. Human and other wastes that have been appropriately processed will be added back as inorganic salts to fertilizers that will nourish plants in liquid, hydroponic culture. Thus, a kind of symbiotic relationship is envisioned between plants and humans in a closed biosphere, but with tight controls maintained over important environmental factors. This capsulized the framework for research of Purdue's NSCORT in Bioregenerative Life Support.
The Center is focused on three missions. One was to collect the scientific and engineering information needed to develop a Controlled Ecological Life-Support System that can sustain itself without resupply from Earth. The second was to educate a cadre of cross trained Space Life Scientists who will be leaders in creating the first CELSS. The third mission was to inform educational, public, and industrial groups about the space and Earth benefits of research generated by CELSS research.
Purdue University has enjoyed a long association with the space program. Distinguished as the choice non-military educational institution of more space explorers than any other, Purdue graduates include the first and the last men to walk on the moon. It is also home to fine remote sensing programs for both, geophysical and astronomic studies. The NSCORT program strengthened and broadened the complement of space-related opportunities available at one location, Purdue.