27Oct2019

Astronauts Grow Lettuce On The Space Station

NASA astronauts on the Space Station have successfully grown food in the microgravity environment, offering hope for the future of long-term space exploration. NASA’s resident biologist Jessica Meir shared incredible pictures of lettuce leaves growing.

Image result for Astronauts grow lettuce on the space station - 'So excited for harvest'

Astronauts sampling food they have grown on the space staiton

The Japanese variant of Mizuna lettuce or mustard greens appears to be thriving 250 miles up in space. Experiments like these, the astronaut said, will help future explorers go deeper into space than ever before. Dr Meir tweeted from the ISS: “We’re growing Mizuna lettuce on @Space_Station! “We’ll need to be more sustainable and grow our own food for future, longer duration missions on #Artemis and Mars.

“So excited for harvest… I eat salad every day on Earth, but it’s been 29 days without one! Happy #NationalFoodDay!” The NASA astronaut arrived on the space station for the first time in her career on September 25, 2019. NASA’s Johnson Space Center also shared a photo of astronaut Andrew Morgan working on the experiment dubbed Veg-04B.

You can see the Japanese lettuce is housed in special containment units with intense orange and violet light. The space agency said: “Veg-04B focuses on the effects of light quality and fertiliser on the leafy Mizuna crop, microbial food safety, nutritional value and the taste acceptability by the crew. “The space botany research is also informing NASA how to provide fresh food for crews on long-term space missions.”

In most cases, the food grown on the space station is sent back to Earth for testing and analysis. Once in a while, however, the astronauts are treated to a sample of their work. Crews on the ISS have access to all sorts of pre-prepared foods and treats. But the supplies are delivered to the space station directly from Earth by a rocket. In the unlikely event supplies run out or are contaminated, astronauts will have no other access to food.

Being able to grow crops in space will eliminate to a certain extent the ISS’s reliance on ground support. Growing crops in space will also help extend the duration of NASA’s missions on the Moon and Mars. The Moon, in particular, is the focus of NASA’s 2020 Artemis programme. By the end of 2028, NASA hopes to establish a permanent and “sustainable” human presence on the Moon.

NASA’s Mark Garcia said on Thursday the ultimate goal of NASA’s operations on the ISS is to provide direct benefits for human on Earth and in space. He said: “NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch juggled an array of life science activities throughout Thursday. “Meir cared for plants for a new field of botany research exploring how to provide fresh food for long-term space crews.”

Quick facts about the International Space Station (ISS):

1. The ISS’ large modules were delivered into orbit on a total of 42 flights – 37 US Space Shuttle launches and five Russian launches.

2. A spacecraft launched from Earth can arrive at the Space Station in as little as six hours.

3. The wingspan of the Space Station’s solar array measures 240ft or the equivalent of the Airbus A380.

4. There are about 350,000 sensors on the ISS, monitoring the crews’ health.

5. A total of six spacecraft can dock to the ISS at once.

Source: NASA news: Express.co.uk

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