Growing Food in Space May Be Key to Long-Term Missions
by Mariama Bah, age 14
A group of 250 Madison scientists from the Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) are working with NASA to develop systems that provide an optimal environment for growing produce in space.
Growing plants in space is a challenge, due to the lack of sunlight and gravity. Without sunlight, the plants can’t photosynthesize, and without gravity, seeds can float away and water can’t get to the plants’ roots. SNC’s solution to this problem is the Advanced Plant Habitat. The Advanced Plant Habitat is a closed and controlled environment that the astronauts use to grow crops. So far, the International Space Station has successfully grown dwarf wheat and radishes.
Growing plants onboard the International Space Station has multiple benefits, says Robert Morrow, principal scientist for SNC’s Propulsion and Environment Systems, including improving air quality. It could also give astronauts more time to switch oxygen tanks in case of an emergency. Most importantly, vegetables are a great source of vitamins and nutrients, which are essential for long-term missions.
[Sources: Madison.com; NASA; Sierra Nevada Corporation]