We mentioned in an article last year entitled What is Hydroponics
that fresh food had been grown in outer space and NASA
reports that this is set to become an ongoing thing!
The crew on the International Space Station spent several weeks cultivating red romaine lettuce and ate this for the first time on August 10th 2015 in the orbiting laboratory.
The plant experiment, entitled Veg-01, was used to study the performance of plant growth in space and the rooting pillows which contained the seeds. According to NASA It was also used by astronauts as a recreational activity during the mission.
The collapsible unit used included a flat panel LED light bank with red, blue and green LED's. The three colours facilitated plant growth and allowed for observation by the crew. According to Dr. Ray Wheeler of NASA the concept of growth using LED lighting was created by NASA in the late 1990's.
Wheeler stated that "blue and red wavelengths are the minimum needed to get good plant growth.The green LEDs help to enhance the human visual perception of the plants, but they don't put out as much light as the reds and blues"
The principles of vertical agriculture are being considered for the future. This is similar to the system that is currently used on Earth for much of our fruit and vegetable production. It is effectively a stack of shelves for plant growth using electric lighting and nutrients that are added to the water supply.
The psychological benefits of hydroponics are being investigated by NASA's Human Research Program. Alexandra Whitmire, a Behavioural Health and Perfomance scientist, mentions that "Future spaceflight missions could involve four to six crew members living in a confined space for an extended period of time, with limited communication. We recognize it will be important to provide training that will be effective and equip the crew with adequate countermeasures during their mission." Her team are researching the positive effects of plant life and hydroponics on the crew's behavioural conditions, performance and communication.
Also working on the project is Dr. Gioia Massa who adds that "the farther and longer humans go away from Earth, the greater the need to be able to grow plants for food, atmosphere recycling and psychological benefits. I think that plant systems will become important components of any long-duration exploration scenario."
The whole concept of this is fascinating and the last statement from Dr Massa certainly has relevance to those of us on Earth who do not have space to grow outdoors!
We are following and watching these developments and will keep you updated!
Watch the video below and keep your eyes peeled for the latest developments....