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NEW: The Algatron

The Algatron was a short-lived but audacious attempt at a closed ecological system of living and growing algae to provide for oxygen generation/carbon dioxide absorption as well as “microbiological waste conversion” for “humans sealed within an isolated capsule,” on its way to the Moon, Mars, or even “indefinitely long periods of time” on their way to the stars.

UPCOMING PRESENTATIONS /


"The Algatron": Or how to deal with shit in space.

D.P.D. Munns, at the  Again: Method! conference in LMU, Munich. Oct 2016.

 

"Tron: What have you Become?"

D.P.D. Munns, at the Society for Literature, Science and the Arts conference. Atlanta, Nov 2016.

 

RELATED TOPICS /


BIO-3
BIOSPHERE 2 project
Climate Change
Waste
Algae
Recycling
Space Colonies
Death
What is Life?
 

 

 Imagining a Lunar Farm

Imagining a Lunar Farm

 PROPOSAL TO PLACE THE ALGATRON IN A ROCKET

PROPOSAL TO PLACE THE ALGATRON IN A ROCKET

 

The signs of climate change are everywhere, from the glaciers of Greenland retreating to Pacific Islands disappearing.  Only the most deluded now disagree with author and activist Naomi Klein that “climate change has become an existential crisis for the human species.”  What better time than now to recall a story about a forgotten biological science of the environment? 

Built by pair of sanitary engineers from the University of California at Berkeley, William Oswald and Clarence Golueke, the Algatron was an effort to replicate and control in a space ecosystem “the mutual interdependence of organisms within an isolated environment” as a way of modelling waste management on earth, itself an isolated environment or biosphere.

 

climate change has become an existential crisis for the human species.
— Naomi Klein

 

Needed solutions for the crisis of climate change include imposing a harsher regulatory environment for carbon emissions, acknowledging that human life is no more or less valuable than any other life, and creating awareness of the interconnectedness of all parts of the biosphere. We need to re-think how there are no “wastes” opposite “goods”: both are only material moved and changed. As the history of the Algatron project will explore, there is no better example than in the algae waste management system known as the Algatron that lost out to the reductionist biomedical waste disposal system of the “fecal bag” for the Apollo program. Even at the embryonic stage in 1962 the Algatron was built with the understanding that humans and their waste existed within an ecological system as algae and its waste. It took remarkable insight to see that while people breathe oxygen and excrete urea and CO2, the algae breathe CO2, ingest urea, and excrete water and oxygen. A pair of sanitary engineers, William Oswald and Clarence Golueke, built their tron to mediate between the biological function of each species, each of which is connected via the waste of the other. Moreover, the closed environment of a space capsule was itself just a microcosm of the closed system of the earth’s biosphere. The space capsule was not just like earth, it was earth: such an “ecological system,” Oswald and Golueke explicitly said, was then really “a miniature version of the grand scale terrestrial ecological system of which we are apart, in that the basic principles of the two systems are the same, only the size and variety of their constituents differ.”

 

 

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At the basic level, humans live on the wastes of plants, namely oxygen, and plants live on the wastes of humans, namely carbon dioxide.
— The crux of the Algatron
 PLAN FOR THE ALGATRON MODULE FOR THE APOLLO MISSIONS CIRCA 1965.

PLAN FOR THE ALGATRON MODULE FOR THE APOLLO MISSIONS CIRCA 1965.