No one delivers Chinese food in space. Sad, but true. In fact, the biggest problem with eating in space is that there is no gravity. Even a morsel of food will float off and drift around the space vessel. Drinks, they too will float out and hang in the air. To feed astronauts who’re in space on long term missions, NASA scientists have invented special packaging over the decades. From gloopy foods packaged in tubes in the 60s, to freeze dried food to hot meals that require hot water to be mixed to become moist, nutrition researchers at NASA make sure that astronauts get all their vitamins and their five-a-day fruits and vegetables. Scientists have invested a lot of efforts in working out ways to make sure they get fresh vegetables that have an impact on the physical and psychological health of NASA astronauts.
Fresh, space grown veggies were on the menu for the first time in history at the International Space Station, where NASA astronauts sampled “Outredgeous” red romaine lettuce as part of NASA’s VEG-01 experiment. The lettuce had been growing in a specially designed chamber since early July, under the care of U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly.
NASA Astronauts Ate Space Grown Veggies
Astronaut Scott Kelly tweeted a selfie that shows him with a batch of space grown vegetables in the background. “Tomorrow we’ll eat the anticipated veggie harvest,” he tweeted. “But first, lettuce take a #selfie. #YearInSpace”
Tomorrow we’ll eat the anticipated veggie harvest on @space_station! But first, lettuce take a #selfie. #YearInSpace pic.twitter.com/fUKQMhEDjK
— Scott Kelly (@StationCDRKelly) August 9, 2015
Favorite payload on @Space_station is Veggie! Fun watching these grow. Almost sad to eat them tomorrow. Almost. pic.twitter.com/jaIonmmreH
— Kjell Lindgren (@astro_kjell) August 9, 2015
To consume the greens, astronaut Kjell Lindgren cleaned them with citric acid-based, food-safe sanitizing wipes. At 12.45 ET on Monday, Kelly, Lindgren and Japanese astronaut Kimiya Yui tasted them, before trying them again with a bit of balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
It was one small bite for man, one giant leap for #NASAVEGGIE and our #JourneytoMars. #YearInSpace https://t.co/B7Gkfm1Vz0
— Scott Kelly (@StationCDRKelly) August 10, 2015
The Vegetable Production System (nicknamed VEGGIE) technology carries out quite a few purposes apart from allowing NASA astronauts to munch on nutritious food. The program will help NASA explore the prospect of growing vegetables in space, as the space agency plans the exploration of Mars and other planets. Sending food from Earth is expensive, i.e. around $10,000 per pound. While, the cost of growing it on board is considerably economical.
Grown Veggies on International Space Station
The VEGGIE technology was delivered to the space station in April 2014, along with romaine seeds and a set of zinnias. NASA astronauts grew and harvested the produce over a period of 33 days. The VEGGIE unit features diverse color light-emitting diode (LED) lights to help plant growth and controls for humidity and temperature. At the bottom of the VEGGIE unit is a mat that holds in plants’ roots, along with six small Kevlar-lined plant pillows on top. Each of these pillows contains seeds, a kitty litter such as clay mixture, controlled-release fertilizer pellets, designed to allow water and oxygen to reach the roots. The water is directly injected in the pillows, thus allowing germination.
Gioia Massa, a NASA scientist in a news release from said that as farther and longer humans go away from Earth, the greater will be the need to grow plants to food, atmosphere recycling and psychological benefits. The VEGGIE technology will become an important element of any long-duration exploration scenario.
NASA scientists believe that tending a garden in space might provide a therapeutic experience for astronauts, especially during the expedition that are isolating and mentally exhausting.
Moreover, the program could help generate new insights into improving agricultural production on Earth. In fact, many of the lessons the space program has learned about space farming could be applied in urban plant factories and other agricultural settings, where it is essential to consider water and power.
NASA hopes to increase the amount as well as the crop type in the near future, which will thus allow them to learn more about growing plants in microgravity. Many of the upcoming experiments will explore the impacts of light quality on crop yield, flavor, and nutrition, both in space and on Earth.
NASA astronauts will soon grow cabbage, spinach, rice, peanuts and other vegetables. NASA hopes the crews will someday grow crops that can be turned into pasta, salads, bread, and even soya milk shakes.