José María Ortega Hernández
José is a PhD Researcher in Aeronautical & Mechanical Engineering (Space Agriculture Technology), Faculty of Arts, Science, and Technology, and is supervised by Dr Zheng Chen and Dr Neil Pickles.
Thesis title/work in progress:
Advanced Control Systems for an Encapsulated and Pressurised Habitat for Plants in Space.
Why did you choose this topic and what are your research interests?
I chose this topic since it is very well known that Space Agriculture will have a key role in the near future. Future human settlements on the Moon, Mars or even beyond should be capable of growing their owns plants and crops in order to be fully sustainable. We really need to understand how crops are going to behave under different planetary conditions (i.e. different gravities) in order to feed future astronauts, produce oxygen and remove carbon dioxide thanks to the photosynthesis. In my proposal, I am more focused on Space Agriculture Technology. However, there is much input from Planetary Geology and Plant Biology since these three main pillars have to be fully merged in order to support the future habitability.
What do you hope to do in the future, and what opportunities are you looking for?
In the future, all that scientific knowledge created in the PhD will be used and boosted into the Green Moon Project (greenmoonproject.com). I am currently coordinating this multidisciplinary project that originally started in September 2016. We reached a collaboration agreement with the Chinese team that managed to first plant on the Moon in January 2019 within the Chang'e 4 mission. There are several institutions involved within this project; we are using our laboratories in southern Spain, in Granada, together with the natural laboratory provided by the Lanzarote Island (Canary Islands) as it is well recognised that it is a planetary analog (very similar to the Moon or even Mars due to its volcanic and basaltic origin).
I am doing this in a part-time style since I am currently working as an engineer within the great car manufacturer Bentley Motors Limited where I am learning values such as how important teamwork and quality in everything we do are.