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Did you know there are plantitos and plantitas in space, too?

By Brooke Villanueva Published Feb 07, 2021 9:48 pm

For a while now, NASA has been experimenting with the process of growing fresh produce in space "on long-duration missions farther from home." This is in line with their plans to examine not only the moon on a deeper level, but also Mars at some point in the future.

Just recently, NASA shared some snaps showing the Space Station crew taking care of "space veggies" such as the Extra Dwarf pak choi, mustard, kale, and red romaine lettuce.

Late last year, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) reached another major milestone as they harvested fresh radishes in the Advanced Plant Habitat (APH) of the International Space Station.

The project is part of their plant experiment dubbed Plant Habitat-02 (PH-02), where they have grown radishes for a time period of 27 days. Why radishes? Apart from the fact that they are greatly understood by scientists, they’re also nutritious and edible, “and are genetically similar to Arabidopsis, a small flowering plant related to cabbage that researchers frequently study in microgravity.”

LOOK: Kate Rubins harvests radish plants in space | Photo from NASA

“Radishes are a different kind of crop compared to leafy greens that astronauts previously grew on the space station, or dwarf wheat which was the first crop grown in the APH,” said Nicole Dufour, NASA APH program manager at Kennedy Space Center.

“Growing a range of crops helps us determine which plants thrive in microgravity and offer the best variety and nutritional balance for astronauts on long-duration missions,” she continued.

How did it work? To stimulate plant growth, the group made use of red, blue, green, and broad-spectrum white LED lights. They also utilized sophisticated control systems to provide water to the plants, as well as control cameras and over 180 sensors to track plant growth and keep their moisture levels, temperature, and carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration in check.

According to NASA, the experiment allowed them to determine the right balance of care and feeding when it comes to growing healthy and quality plants in space.

The radish plants, which were each wrapped in foil and placed in cold storage, didn’t require a lot of maintenance from the group. They’re set for a 2021 trip to the Earth on SpaceX’s 22nd Commercial Resupply Services mission.

Article thumbnails from NASA