Astronauts hoping to add leafy greens to their space menu as NASA will attempt to grow romaine lettuce in zero gravity on the International Space Station.
NASA's Vegetable Production System, dubbed Veggie, will be the agency's first attempt to turn astronauts into space farmers, growing produce in space that could sustain space travelers, the Houston Chronicle reported
. The vegetables will grow under pink LED lights and should be ready to eat in 28 days,
"The Vegetable Production System is a deployable plant growth unit capable of producing salad-type crops to provide the crew with a palatable, nutritious, and safe source of fresh food and a tool to support relaxation and recreation," NASA said in news release. "The Veggie provides lighting and nutrient delivery, but utilizes the cabin environment for temperature control and as a source of carbon dioxide to promote growth."
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Before the lettuce is eaten, according to The Independent
, researches want to freeze and store the lettuce on Earth and test it. Space microbes are generally harmless, but NASA wants to put the space lettuce through its usually vetting process just to make sure it will be safe for humans.
To boldly grow where no one has grown before can be financially beneficial, reported The Independent. Sending food to astronauts on the International Space Station costs around $10,000 per pound, ISS project scientist Howard Levine told Modern Farmer
Levine said it may take some time before food grown in space will make up the majority of an astronaut's galactic diet.
"At this point, the break-even cost is far too high for serious bioregenerative agriculture," said Levine. "Six heads of lettuce make a nice supplement to the crew’s diet, but it isn’t going to feed them for the long-term."
Veggie is a joint project between NASA scientists and Orbital Technologies, based in Madison, Wis., according to ABC News
. Gioia Massa, a project scientist for the Kennedy Space Center said Veggie will eventually opening up to international collaboration and experimentation.
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