Astronauts Planning To Grow Tomatoes Aboard International Space Station

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Astronauts Planning To Grow Tomatoes Aboard ISS

Apart from carrying out advanced scientific research, growing plants aboard the International Space Station (ISS) has been NASA’s long-term goal. The space agency has been doing so for years, with an aim to eventually process them beyond science experiments to proper agriculture.

 

Now, the marquee space agency has announced that astronauts aboard the ISS have kicked off the next phase, Veg-05, as part of the ongoing gardening experiment by growing small tomatoes.

Growing Veggies In Space

"We are testing tomatoes, looking at the impacts of light spectrum on how well the crop grows, how delicious and nutritious the tomatoes are, and the microbial activity on the fruit and plants," said Gioia Massa, NASA Life Sciences project scientist. "We also are examining the overall effect of growing, tending, and eating crops on crew behavioral health. All of this will provide valuable data for future space exploration."

The crew will grow these tomatoes on the Vegetable Production System, ISS’ space garden that is used to grow some food for the crew. The quantity won’t be very high as the Vegetable Production System is only the size of a suitcase.

However, that hasn’t restricted the crew from successfully growing lettuces, cabbages, kale, and peppers. With tomatoes thrown in the mix, maybe the astronauts will be able to make their version of space salads.

Taste Also Matters

NASA is also considering the taste as a significant part of the experiment. To do so, the crew will be monitoring the gustatory qualities of the tomatoes. It will take some time before we have an entire farm in space or on the lunar surface, but the Vegetable Production System experiments will play a crucial role in achieving it.

Enabling the crew to grow their own food will allow them to be more self-sufficient. It will be helpful in the future as NASA plans to put humans on the Moon by 2024. The space agency also plans to set up a lunar base by the end of the decade.

NASA explains, producing fresh food during future missions farther away from our planet could boost crew morale and reduce crew dependency on space cargo missions. This will also bring down the cost of future space missions.

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