From Handicrafts to Habitat: Investigating Terite's Applications in Space

Open Access
Conference Proceedings
Authors: Brandon Cuffie

Abstract: The challenges associated with prolonged human space exploration missions require sustainable and innovative approaches to ensure the health and well-being of astronauts. Many indigenous plants around the world can potentially serve as valuable resources for long-duration space missions. The raw material Ischnosiphon Axouma commonly known as (Terite) is indigenous to the island of Trinidad. Before the 15th century, terite was used in weaving by the island's indigenous inhabitants to make household items, such as baskets for fishing, jewelry, and utensils that lasted a lifetime. Some of the weaving techniques used have been passed on to generations and are present today. The terite is cut from the stalk and split into equal widths to extract the raw material strands. The roots are left intact to ensure continuous growth; they self-replenish. The strands produce eco-friendly craft items such as; tabletops, lampshades, book covers, plates, teacup holders, and more. The leaves have the potential to be used to make sanitary plates and bowls. The inner part of the stalk is used as a natural fertilizer for plants. Thus most of the Terite plant can be utilised with minimum wastage. In this paper, a design thinking approach is outlined to help us identify and evaluate potential experiments that could yield innovative solutions to the challenges of space habitation. It also identifies the areas of study and the considerations that are necessary to long-duration space travel and the potential for the development of space tourism within the Caribbean region.In this paper, we propose potential experiments to begin to explore terite as a sustainable and multifunctional resource in space. The experiments are as follows:(1) Cultivation and processing: Experiments done in this area would focus on optimizing the cultivation and processing of Terite in space habitats and other planets. This would involve testing the feasibility of growing Terite in different conditions, including various lighting and temperature settings. Additionally, we would investigate the best methods for processing Terite, such as drying and extracting its fibres, to maximize its usefulness as a resource.(2) Construction Application: these experiments would examine Terite's potential applications as a material for construction in space habitats. We would test its mechanical properties, such as its tensile strength, elasticity, and toughness, to determine its suitability for different engineering applications and astronaut personal items to survive under space conditions. Additionally, we would investigate its compatibility with other materials commonly used in space habitats, such as metals and plastics.(3) Reinforced 3D printing: the experiment would aim to determine whether Terite fibers can be a useful and sustainable reinforcement for 3D printing in space, providing additional strength and durability to printed objects while reducing the need for synthetic materials.By taking a design thinking approach, we can not only explore the potential of Terite as a valuable resource for space exploration and long-duration space missions but also uncover new opportunities for innovation and collaboration across different fields and disciplines. Ultimately, this approach can help us design more sustainable, efficient, and user-centred solutions for the challenges of space habitation.

Keywords: indigenous plant, Terite, space research, space habitats, cultivation, processing, construction, engineering, human centered design

DOI: 10.54941/ahfe1004134

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