Veggies in Space
Forget the space ice cream and make way for delicious and nutritious space veggies! In case you missed it, earlier this month, there was historic news from astronauts aboard the International Space Station. So, what was the first veggie grown in outer space? Red Romaine lettuce! The verdict? Astronaut Scott Kelly stated, “It tasted good. Kinda like arugula.” Astronaut Kjell Lindgren’s first comment after taking the first bite was, “That’s awesome!” The plants were on board for 15 months before being activated and from seed to salad, and the process took 33 days. The lettuce was grown using green, red and blue LEDs.
The Veg-01 experiment is crucial should duration of flights and distance traveled increase in the future, perhaps on a human mission to Mars, for example. A great perk is that the clean, fresh produce is very healthy, and the veggies provide an increased nutrient supply of antioxidants, which are beneficial to the stressful conditions an astronaut encounters while in orbit.
What does this mean for the future of space travel and farming in general? We spoke with local agricultural guru, Jason McCobb, a.k.a. Farmer Jay. Since Jason is a soil farmer he noted that the soil and the biological elements that come along with it probably would not be welcome in the spacecraft. And what does he think is coming next? “They are going to have to learn how to grow fruit bearing plants. A space cucumber would pretty cool,” said McCobb.
“It is very exciting to see what this means, not only for the future of space travel, but how this experiment could enhance our farming practices here on earth,” shared Lori Nolan, General Manager of the GreenMarket.
The fresh produce is healthy, gives the astronauts a taste of home, and even a new hobby, gardening. According to Gioia Massa, a NASA project scientist for Veggie, “We think that having that additional component of fresh food grown on the station, would make the crew generally happier, and hopefully healthier. It’s something to look at. It is something that changes with the passage of time.”