Jonathan Trent

NASA scientist and adjunct Professor at UCSC


Jonathan Trent, NASA scientist and adjunct Professor at UCSC, wanted to understand what politicians meant when they said: “We need an Apollo mission for energy” and he began “Global Research into Energy and the Environment at NASA (GREEN).” Leading an interdisciplinary team of scientists and engineers, he investigated how tools developed for Apollo, and space exploration in general, could be applied to address some of the most pressing problems on “spaceship earth.” Inspired by closed life-support systems developed for long-duration space exploration, he invented OMEGA—a system to grow microalgae, produce sustainable biofuels, clean wastewater, sequester carbon, and produce food and fertilizer without competing with agriculture for freshwater or land. The OMEGA project, supported by NASA and the California Energy Commission, is an ecology of technologies in which wastes become resources. An optimistic glimpse at the future and a reminder that we are not passengers on spaceship earth, we are the crew!