OCT 03, 2016 09:12 AM PDT

Can We Grow Large Numbers of Plants in Space?

One of the most important experiments astronauts are performing in space today is attempting to grow plants in space. Among those are edible vegetables, which you’ve probably by now seen astronauts munching on while aboard the International Space Station.
 

A young sunflower growing on the International Space Station.

 Image Credit: International Space Station/NASA

Learning to do this efficiently, and more importantly, on a larger scale, could one day help us with our future endeavor of colonizing other planets in our Solar System, such as Mars. This is an important step in space exploration, as having astronauts grow their own food would be much more cost-efficient than sending food supplies to other planets all the time.
 
Although it’s possible to grow plants in space while in a controlled environment, it isn’t without its difficulties, and growing plants on a large scale in space may still provide to be even more difficult to do, as we really haven’t done it yet or know if it would work
 
As pointed out in a study published in Botany Letters, current experiments have been confined to test subjects so limited in size that we don’t know how well large-scale agriculture will fare in a non-Earthly environment.
 
We know that microgravity can have strange effects on plants, such as the flavor and seed structure, which means plants grown in space aren’t quite the same as plants grown on Earth. We are also limited on what we’re able to grow in space, which also continues to make agriculture in space difficult.
 
Such problems can alter the nutritional value and other important characteristics of the plant that make it worth growing for astronauts. Nevertheless, recent studies have shown that space-grown plants are “safe” to eat and astronauts have already bitten into the first space-grown lettuce for science.
 
The difficulties aren’t to say plants grown on other planets where gravity exists might not fare better, but so far, we have limited test trials to really have a good idea about plants grown in space.
 
The study, led by Lucie Poulet and her colleagues from the University of Clermont-Ferrand, reveals that not enough is known yet about how long-term space-led agriculture will impact the growth of plants.
 
Although we’ve tested in small scale, plants need adequate ventilation, light, and protection from the radiation that bombards the International Space Station. It’s easy to do that in a small testing box, but to have a full-sized farm for testing purposes on a floating laboratory in space is difficult to do.
 
Expandable modules, such as the one by Bigelow that astronauts are testing in space at this point in time, may provide some use for this purpose, however we’re still in the middle of testing the longevity of these modules and their long-term performance is yet to be realized.
 
Source: Science Daily

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
AUG 07, 2018
Space & Astronomy
AUG 07, 2018
Why Does the James Webb Space Telescope Keep Getting Delayed?
The James Webb Space Telescope is set to become NASA’s latest and greatest space-based observatory, superseding the Hubble Space Telescope as the big...
SEP 09, 2018
Space & Astronomy
SEP 09, 2018
Curiosity Rover Captures Stunning Panorama Following Successful Drill Sampling
NASA’s Curiosity rover currently sits at the forefront of the American space agency’s web page this week after capturing a breath-taking 360-de...
SEP 17, 2018
Space & Astronomy
SEP 17, 2018
SpaceX to Announce First Passenger for Upcoming Commercial Lunar Flight
To date, only 24 humans have journeyed to the Moon. Every one of these visits took place more than four decades ago, with the most recent visit having tran...
SEP 19, 2018
Space & Astronomy
SEP 19, 2018
RemoveDebris Spacecraft Successfully Nets a Piece of Space Junk
Experts approximate that there’s around 7.5 metric tons’ worth of space junk swirling around our planet. Most of this junk is comprised of dead...
SEP 23, 2018
Space & Astronomy
SEP 23, 2018
First Images From NASA's TESS Mission Begin Rolling In
Following in the successful footsteps of NASA’s Kepler mission, the space agency’s brand-new Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) missi...
NOV 12, 2018
Space & Astronomy
NOV 12, 2018
SpaceX Planning to Launch Miniature BFR Prototype
SpaceX is perhaps best known for its Falcon 9 rocket, which frequently powers International Space Station resupply missions and ferries communication satel...
Loading Comments...