Food diversity will play an essential role during extended space voyages. A new NASA experiment aims to increase the diversity of foods that can be grown directly in space. The research, which took place on the International Space Station, used romaine lettuce. While this food is already available in the area, NASA officials are confident that other crops could be cultivated in the future.
Previous food experiments which took place on the ISS employed seed bags. These bags are manually injected with water by the astronauts. The small amount of water may be enough for the romaine lettuce, but other types of vegetables will require a higher quantity.
During a 21-day test, the astronauts cultivated romaine lettuce seeds placed in passive orbital nutrient delivery systems (also known as PONDS). This new type of units are more affordable in comparison to the classic seed bags, and they can contain a more significant amount of water, while at the same time offering more space for roots.
A new NASA experiment could increase space food diversity
The PONDS are also more efficient since they consume a lower amount of electric power. Out of 12 PONDS, six be sent back to Earth with the help of an upcoming SpaceX mission. After further analysis, the PONDS design will be refined, and researchers will attempt to use it grow different crops.
This innovation may not seem too impressive, but it will be quite crucial in the long run. While the ISS and the moon are close to Earth astronauts who participate in long missions will require a reliable source of food that can be produced aboard the ship, since supply missions would be expensive and impractical.
According to a high-ranking NASA employee, a great accent should be placed on self-sustenance and the ration between the initial costs and the potential benefits. In the span of a few decades, the food consumed by astronauts has come a long way from the small packages and tubes filled with nutrients which were used during the first missions.