Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) have successfully grown the red romaine lettuce despite the fact that the conditions there are different from those on Earth: the gravity is significantly less and the radiation is more intense.
The lettuce was safe to consume and contained just as many nutrients as lettuce grown on Earth would contain.
Experiments and research on growing lettuce plants began in 2014 and the first experiment to grow lettuce was done in May 2014. This was after the first-ever Vegetable Production Systems growth chambers by NASA were transported to the International Space Station. These chambers are furnished with LED lighting and a watering system. Often nicknamed ‘Veggie,’ these chambers can hold about six plants at a time.
These harvests were subsequently sent to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for analysis and were found to be absolutely safe for consumption.
Since this first experiment close to half a decade back, a wide range of greens have been grown on the space station.
Generally, the astronauts consume pre-packaged meals such as peanut butter, nuts, chocolate, dried fruits, chicken, and beef. However, these meals are deficient in a few minerals are vitamins such as potassium, Vitamin C, B1, and K, which degrade with time.
Growing crops aboard the International Space Station will be effective on long-distance missions.
“The ability to grow food in a sustainable system that is safe for crew consumption will become critical as NASA moves toward longer missions. Salad-type, leafy greens can be grown and consumed fresh with few resources,” said Dr Christina Khodadad, a researcher at the Kennedy Space Center, in a study published in the journal Frontiers in Plant Science.
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