“One of the intangibles of having plants in space is having a living piece of Earth with you,” comments an astronaut living in space as she arranges the green light bulbs on plants. The art of growing plants in space is tricky. First and foremost, water will form into balls and float in the air. There is no oxygen, water and light. Yet astronauts are growing space veggies such as lettuce and sprouting onions as they swirl 200 miles above earth. How?
Harvesting nutritional vegetables on space also fits into Elon Musks’s idea of establishing a human colony on Mars. It sets the future course for man and his success in establishing a Martian colony. Space farming is a more practical solution to keep the colony well fed than transferring tonnes of food from Earth to Mars or space. The optimum procedure can also deal with food crises on Earth.
Nitty-Gritty of Space Gardening
Swasnson decided to flourish this spatial garden by selecting the seeds that will grow best in microgravity—weak gravitational pull as found in a spacecraft. Sick eating salmonella in space, Swanson undertook the difficult task of growing fresh vegetables, organically. Water was supplied through tubes attached to a water pouch. The experiment known as Veg-01 arranged a few essentials—a small box with plant pillows stuffed with dirt-like grainy material and fertilizer balls. The box was decorated with lines of red and blue light for healthy plant growth. Also, a few green bulbs were added to colour the plants. To circulate air inside the box and maintain humidity, fans were used. These tricks resulted in healthy onions, red romaine lettuce, Tokyo bekana cabbage and mizuna.
Space farming was on its way to develop 200+ dishes later on. The vegetables also travelled to Earth via SpaceX and were declared safe and healthy for daily consumption. Experiment Veg-01 has tickled the imagination of many. Futuristic space farming is conducive to life support inside the massive International Space Station, and the plants would also provide oxygen and remove carbon dioxide from the rooms.
The space crew has now progressed to experiment Veg-O4B where the prime focus in on food safety, its taste and nutritional values. NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan is leading the experiment by watering the tender plant pillows. The other two astronauts Jessica Meir and Christina Koch are taking care of the nimble limbs of the veggies that will be served fresh on their salad bowls.
Even amidst the microgravity problems and lack of a liveable atmosphere, space farming is here to stay. “It’s hard to wash your hands in space, and even harder to wash your lettuce,” describes an astronaut associated with the experiments. Inside the International Space Station, carefully nurturing the futuristic space food only to munch on some mizuna later is the coolest Instagram post by Steve Swanson.
Lada Validating Vegetable Production Unit
The latest experiment known as Lada Validating Vegetable Production Unit is a new model of growing cosmic veggies. A simple box fashioned like a greenhouse planter box is used inside the ISS for plantation. The experiment records growth of plants and organisms in microgravity. Apart from improving space agriculture in artificial environment, this experiment can help farmers on this planet to produce healthy crops with minimum water.