Growing food in space has become NASA’s most intriguing project so far. Plants are grown in gardens on the ISS (the International Space Station) similar to Earth, except for weightlessness. Research of plants on the space station from 2014 to 2016 proved they have the same nutrient levels to those grown on Earth.
Gardens on space boost astronauts’ health, nutrition, and psychology. Currently, NASA intends to add more growing plots in the following years. We might witness new plant varieties, such as tomatoes, radishes, or chili peppers, reaching space grounds.
NASA’s Future Garden in the Space
Growing vegetables in a weightless environment is a hurdle that NASA says must be overcome to realize more deep-space journeys, mainly to transport people to Mars. Fresh food is not only nutritional, but it also supports astronauts’ mental health.
They sometimes have cravings for more flavor on extended missions, according to Mattew Romeyn, a NASA project scientist. He explained that gardens in space also help astronauts psychologically.
Research, too, has proved the structure of a garden, and the water can limit the space radiation. Bigger gardens could enhance oxygen levels because plants absorb the carbon dioxide and send oxygen.
About NASA’s Astronauts in the Mission
“Astronauts love to see something green and growing in the sterile environment of space. They make regular requests for what they want to grow during their missions,” detailed Romeyn. For such a reason, the space agency intends to let astronauts continue the gardening, while automated systems manage the most of the work.
The ISS has two small growing ‘plots’ dubbed Veggies. The habitat doesn’t measure more than a mini-refrigerator. It adjusts light, temperature, water, and oxygen, and can be managed by engineers on the ground. Plants appear to grow quickly in space, but watering them properly is a little bit hard because water floats in space.
NASA’s astronauts use absorptive materials or sponges to hold the water for roots to access. At the moment, the space station gardens are empty. A new batch of seeds is ready to be planted, said Romeyn.