Ever noticed that in the Star Trek universe, no one’s communicator runs out of charge? And Darth Vader never worried about whether he’d remembered to plug in his lightsaber overnight, nor does The Doctor ever dash back into the TARDIS to grab his sonic screwdriver charger. It just never happens.
Possibly we’re to understand that these devices have their own tiny power supplies, but more likely these devices have some other way to get their juice. And wouldn’t it be nice to dispense with the problem of recharging once and for all? In our own local space-time continuum, a number of companies labor to make wireless power possible using a host of technologies, but there are two strategies that show a lot of promise, one using lasers, another using magnetic resonance.
The Veggie team at Desert RATS
Creating a space farm is a such a common assumption that SciFi writers almost routinely include some kind of plant growth or space farm area in any show that involves long distance space travel or space-based colonies. Off the top of my head, I can think of an episode of Doctor Who, and the film Sunshine, and the New Yorker story Lostronaut.
But growing plants is hardly straightforward. Indeed, straightness is one of the problems: Plants rely on both light or gravity to orient themselves, so their roots grow down and their stems grow up. But then there’s the problem of providing the right levels of humidity, ensuring the water actually goes down to the roots in a zero-G environment, providing enough nutrients, and doing it all in a space- and energy-efficient way.
To solve the problems of growing plants in space, Orbital Technologies Corporation has been working on “deployable vegetable production units“ or, as they’re more affectionately called, Veggies. The latest iteration was based on astronaut food containers, and offers astronauts a way to grow plants as a hobby during their free time, as well as give NASA a chance to experiment on the problems of growing plants in microgravity.