Space Salad!

In early 2016, NASA reported that they were sending flowers and vegetable seeds up to the space station. A few days ago, crew members installed the largest plant-growth system on the station. For the first time, three distinct plant crops are being simultaneously grown in space! By having “space gardens” aboard the space station, it is both beneficial psychologically and nutritionally. These individuals spend months in microgravity monitoring experiments millions of miles away from their family and loved ones, so growing a garden gives them something reminiscent of home and something to care for. 

On October 27th, crew members harvested the sixth batch of crops from the experiment VEG-03D in the Vegetable Production System (known as veggie.) Only about half the greens were cut using a technique called cut-and-come-again. This allows the crops to continue to grow, which in turn allows the crew to eat more of the future harvests. Crops that were grown included Mizuna Mustard, Waldmann’s Green Lettuce and Outrageous Red Romaine Lettuce. 

The plant habitat that the crops grow in is a fully enclosed, environmentally controlled chamber. Inside the chamber is red, blue, green and white LED lights to create a broad spectrum. The chamber also has more than 180 sensors that record information on temperature, oxygen and moisture levels to the Kennedy Space Center in FL. If all goes well, the space garden will soon have Arabidopsis (small flowering plants related to cabbage and mustard) and dwarf wheat.

Thank you to Space.com for the original information. You can read more here.

Plants That Are Out Of This World!

Valentines Day, 2016. Scott Kelly harvests a patch of Zinnias in the International Space Station. Space travel to Mars is getting closer then ever. NASA is currently in the middle of an experiment to grow plants and vegetables in space. The seeds were activated on November 13th, and have been growing bountiful since. “We need to learn a tremendous amount to help develop more robust sustainable food production systems as NASA moves toward long-duration exploration and the journey to Mars,” said Gioia Massa, a principal ground scientist for the experiment.

The experiment consisted of two patches of Zinnias, one on the ground and one up in space. Grown in the same conditions and time span, to see if any faults would arise. “The flowers going to seed are a good demonstration for sustainable food crops,” said Nicole Dufour, a NASA mechanical engineer and Veggie subject-matter expert. “It’s a good example of starting with seeds and ending with seeds, which is what you need to sustain crop growth.”

Researchers are curious to see if the pollen from the plants are going to affect the health of crew members, and if having bright flowers aboard will boost morale as well. Expieremnts that involve space plants have always brought joy to astronauts, especially for the people who have been in space for long periods of time, like Scott Kelly. Part of the pleasure of being an astronaut is having been involved in meaningful work, according to behavioral scientists at NASA. However, it is not just astronauts that are positively affected by growing plants!

The next batch of plants sent to the space station will include two types of seeds: ‘Outrageous’ Red Romaine Lettuce for the crew to grow and consume, and a variety of small Chinese Cabbage called ‘Tokyo Bekana.’ We are all excited to see the outcome of these experiments!

Thank you NASA for the original information. You can read more about the experiment here.