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NASA to grow lettuce in zerogravity under pink LEDs aboard ISS

first_imgLater this year NASA astronauts aboard the International Space Station will be adding a new element to their daily routine — watering the garden. NASA hopes to send up a small plot of romaine lettuce that will be grown in zero-gravity under pink LED lights. They believe it could be ready to eat in just 28 days. Of course, the astronauts won’t get to actually eat their experiment — at least not yet.The Vegetable Production System (VEGGIE) program is going to test the safety and feasibility of growing food for astronauts in a confined environment like the ISS. The lettuce is going to be grown in small kevlar pouches that contain a growth medium. Not quite as traditional as soil, but more efficient. These space planters have been tested on Earth for the last few years with zero gravity in mind.NASA has researched how plants grow in space before, but this project is the first step to actually making edible food in orbit. The lettuce grown in this first batch won’t be cleared for consumption, though. Once it has been harvested, astronauts will freeze it and send the samples back to Earth for testing.If all goes well, future space missions could grow a variety of leafy vegetables in orbit. These plants are considered the most efficient for production in space because they don’t require extensive preparation. Just pluck them from the bag, and they’re ready to be eaten. Foods like potatoes may be possible at some point, but they require some preparation before eating. Wheat and rice take longer to grow, and processing these plants into edible foods would require bulky equipment. As such, space bread isn’t going to be on the menu.NASA hopes that having a garden up and running on the ISS could help keep astronauts’ spirits up, too. It can be stressful spending every hour in the stark, sterile interior of the ISS for months on end.last_img read more