What’s the Latest Development?
Later this year, NASA plans to send a special project to the International Space Station (ISS) that could someday mark a major first step towards creating sustainable food sources in space. The Vegetable Production System (VEGGIE) contains all the materials needed to grow an especially healthy version of romaine lettuce. If all goes well, it should be ready for harvest in just under a month. In addition to their quick growth, leafy greens need little space, which makes them an ideal crop to grow aboard the station.
What’s the Big Idea?
For the most part, plant care experiments conducted in space have had purely scientific goals. VEGGIE is one of several projects — most taking place on Earth — designed to help solve the practical challenges involved with feeding travelers on longer space missions. It may have been inspired in part by the gardening efforts of ISS astronaut Don Pettit, who chronicled his experiences in a now-defunct NASA blog titled “Diary of a Space Zucchini.” His project had the added benefit of providing “horticultural therapy,” which VEGGIE project scientist Howard Levine says is very valuable for astronauts “confined to a small metal box.”
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