Interstellar Lab’s Biopod looks like something out of Surviving Mars. It’s a climate and oxygen-controlled inflatable dome capable of housing plant life, making it what they call a “super-advanced autonomous greenhouse.”
In an interview with Wired (opens in new tab), CEO of Interstellar Lab (opens in new tab), Barbara Belvisi, says the whole point of the Biopod is to “create the perfect climatic and atmospheric conditions for life” to combat food scarcity, whether that’s here on Earth or on places where there’s no food at all, like the Moon.
The venture capitalist said she had to learn “a lot about aerospace, life support, agriculture, and architecture” to start this company which consists of former SpaceX, Tesla, and Disney employees. On the company site (opens in new tab), she predicts that in five years, “humans will be back on the Moon and this time to stay.”
Interstellar Lab is building a full-scale prototype in France where they will attempt to grow rare plants that require very specific environmental conditions to thrive. The Earth version of the Biopod is outfitted with hydroponic and aquaponic gear on top of a composite base. It can recycle water and uses the transparent dome as a sunlight filter. Oh, and it has an airlock and an HVAC system for climate control.
In June, the company assembled the first actual Biopod; it measures just over 36 feet long, 20 feet wide, and 16 feet tall. However, the company did show off the concept of a smaller version of the pod called the “Baby Dome” during the 2020 Mars Society Virtual Convention (opens in new tab).
Everything is monitored through an AI that adjusts the environmental settings based on the plant’s growth progression and predicts the potential yield for each crop.
As far as space colonization is concerned, the plan for the future is to be able to turn to connect a series of modular Biopods designed for different uses, such as waste disposal or housing for settlers. Belvisi told Wired that it does hope the company will have found a way to make more efficient tools for scrubbing CO2 from the air and wastewater.
However, the Biopod won’t be making any space voyages anytime soon as Interstellar Lab is still working on making the equipment light and durable enough to withstand space travel. Currently, the company says it has dozens of pre-orders from agricultural, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic companies.
Interstellar Lab is also working on a prototype stand-alone capsule for low-Earth orbit for NASA and an inflatable module to attach to the International Space Station. Oh, and if you want your own state-of-the-art automated greenhouse to grow rare and exotic plants, pre-orders (opens in new tab) for the BioPod start at $250K which will start to ship out to customers later next year.