Episode 1: Living Moon

Living Moon is the project Angelo Vermeulen is currently working on. With “this sort of moon base”, Vermeulen and his colleagues from Delft, University of Technology, “investigate water technologies and local food production.” As modest as he is: “This is nothing new. Think of BIOS-3 in Russia and Biosphere 2 in the US. We are stepping into their tradition, but making it small scale and agile.”

We use the context of space exploration as an extreme environment to help innovate the horticulture sector
“If we are bringing people to deep space, we cannot continue to provide water and food. That is way too expensive and not sustainable. Space explorers have to start growing their own food”, Vermeulen explains. To explore how to do best, he collaborates with horticulture, since they are “used to grow large amounts of food.” Just as he did for his previous project Mission to Mars. “Where Mission to Mars was a theoretical exploration of what the greenhouse of the future could look like. For Living Moon we are actually building an actual test facility.”

Living Moon is a two way exercise. Space travel learns from horticulture, and “we are hoping this platform can help to innovate the horticulture sector. We use the context of space exploration as an extreme environment to help innovate the horticulture sector. It is an environment that still needs creativity and out of the box thinking.”

What do you think the food industry can learn from space travel?

Angelo Vermeulen: a space research, biologist, and visual artist
“I have a particular interest in space exploration, the future of mankind in outer space,” says Angelo Vermeulen. Well, his cv shows – and more.

In 2009 Angelo Vermeulen (Belgium) co-founded SEADS (Space Ecologies Art and Design), an international collective of artists, scientists, engineers, and activists. Its goal is to reshape the future through critical inquiry and hands-on experimentation. Biomodd is one of their most well-known art projects – a worldwide series of interactive art installations with plant-computer hybrids out of e-waste.

For the last ten years, he has been collaborating with the European Space Agency’s MELiSSA program on biological life support for space.

In 2013 he became crew commander of the first NASA-funded HI-SEAS Mars simulation in Hawaii.

Currently, Angelo Vermeulen works at Delft University of Technology, developing bio-inspired concepts for interstellar exploration. He advises several European space companies. Together with the LDE Center for Sustainability he connects space technology and horticulture to foster innovation in global food production, like the lecture series Mission to Mars, and currently Living Moon. He is also preparing a series of art/science experiments on board of the International Space Station.

Vermeulen has been (guest) faculty at universities across Europe, the US, and Southeast Asia. He is a Senior TED Fellow, and was selected in 2017 as one of the Top 5 Tech Pioneers from Belgium by the newspaper De Tijd.

His TED Talk about his space-related work has garnered over a million views.

The above text contains links to Angelo’s impressive work, in English. Dutch and Belgium media have covered his story (in Dutch) as well, for instance on interstellar exploration, space craft design, Mission to Mars, and space & horticulture.