Aug 102015

Image of astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) tasting lettuce grown in microgravity on the ISSA recent report from NASA has seen the International Space Station (ISS) occupants eating some ‘home-grown’ red Romaine lettuce which has been cultivated as part of an experiment aboard the space station. Unsurprisingly, they are growing under a mix of red and blue LED grow lamps, but interestingly, they have also included some green LED lights in there too! The green LEDs however are there apparently for aesthetic reasons – to make the ‘indoor garden’ seem more natural to the astronauts. One has to wonder though, whether the green light might be actually detrimental to the growth as has been documented in some studies, and which might be an important factor when you are trying to optimise limited resources as any indoor gardener knows. Fortunately, this is just the beginning of a whole programme of experiments of in-station growing, which will see NASA engineers working on ways to boost the growth yield, and which might provide valuable information to us back on earth trying to grow indoor gardens. Another interesting feature is their use of a form of hydroponics that includes a synthetic growth media once again demonstrating, what we’ve known all along, that LED Grow Lights and Hydroponics are the way forward. The primary objective of the ISS experiment is to test systems that could eventually enable astronauts to cultivate vegetable gardens aboard spaceships and other extra-terrestrial structures especially since future space expeditions will be long-term affairs requiring the need for space travellers to grow their own food.  In addition, fresh foods are needed for health and nutrition since many vitamins, minerals and importantly, anti-oxidants start to degrade once fresh produce has been picked limiting the time for which it can be stored.