The International Space Station’s crew members announced this week that they are extremely close to eating first veggies grown in space. On Monday, they will harvest the first red romaine lettuce crop and see whether the plant is perfectly edible.
The plants were grown in a especially designed space garden dubbed the Veggie plant growth system located inside the space laboratory. The ISS announced that half of the harvest will be retained by its crew members, while the other half would be frozen and sent back to our planet for ground scientists to have look at.
But before they can have a look at them, ISS researchers will need to clean the lettuce leaves with an citric acid mixture. The lettuce was first planted July 8th. On Monday, they will celebrate 33 days of life inside an open container lit by blue, red and green lights. ISS researchers explained that plants usually need red and blue from the light’s spectrum for their basic processes to happen.
But because ISS scientists didn’t want to have an out-of-this-world purple lettuce on their dinner plate they added the color green, though this color is perfectly useless when it comes to added nutritional value.
“Blue and red wavelengths are the minimum needed to get good plant growth,”
noted Ray Wheeler, a senior researcher for Advanced Life Support activities at Kennedy Space Center.
Mr. Wheeler added that the two colors are also important energy savers and add a lot to the input-output ration of the final product. Green LEDs do not bring additional value to any plant grown in artificial conditions. It just makes leaves be aesthetically pleasing.
Unfortunately, the lettuces harvested next week will not be eaten by crew member. They will need to be tested first and analyzed so they do not pose a health threat. But the success of the current project made scientists hope that a new era is about to come when manned space exploration will no longer be limited by the lack of food supplies.
Scientists will be able to grow their own plants and even set up an entire ecosystem on board of their spaceships that would recycle used air and bring a fresh dose of oxygen. Plants can also be used to recycle waste water while the possibilities are endless.
Plus psychologists believe that a green environment will boost the morale of space crews since green is linked to optimism. Currently, cruising in a confined environment for up to one year poses a real threat to the ISS crew’s mental health.
Image Source: Vox
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