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Surprising Science

Space Cucumbers Presage Longer Missions

Japanese astronaut Satoshi Furukawa plans to plant and grow cucumbers aboard the International Space Station to study how future space travelers can harvest their own food.

What’s the Latest Development?

Among the international trio of astronauts scheduled to fly to the International Space Station yesterday aboard a Russian rocket, one is former Japanese surgeon Satoshi Furukawa whose main scientific objective will be to grow cucumbers in space. “To build on this previous research, Furukawa’s cucumber experiments will focus on how a specific plant hormone, called auxin, behaves in microgravity.” The experiment is designed to test the eventual feasibility of longer missions into deep space where astronauts would need to rely on their own food production capabilities. 

What’s the Big Idea?

When children take a trip to their local science museum, space food may just be on the menu. The foodstuff that sustains astronauts in the hostile environment above Earth’s atmosphere is often a crude, dehydrated take on many of our terrestrial favorites. Space “ice-cream”, for example, is more like a dry, chocolate flavored sponge. Furukawa’s cucumber experiments, however, look ahead to a future when astronauts, and eventually your weekend space tourist, might enjoy a healthy meal of vegetables cultivated miles above the earth.


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