February 6, 2014 – It’s not the diet I would envision for myself but continuing experiments growing plants aboard the International Space Station (ISS) are producing promising results. It seems plants adapt to the weightless space environment and there appears to be no cosmic ray consequences. No human devouring “frankenplant” monsters arising from these experiments.
The Soviets on MIR conducted six experiments growing food crops in space with no issues other than how to deal with the gases and chemicals the plants emitted. Since then seventeen more have been done on the ISS. Now Voice of Russia is reporting that 2015 will be the “year of the farm” in space.
Margarita Levinskikh of the Russian Academy of Sciences states, “We plan experiments with several crops – rice, tomatoes and sweet peppers. These crops have never been grown in space before.” These new crops will be added to those already grown including peas, rice and dwarf wheat.
Levinskikh notes that the gas exchange with plants aboard ISS is similar to what happens in a terrestrial greenhouse. The plants produce oxygen and absorb the carbon dioxide exhaled by those onboard the space station. Ultimately a farm in space attached to the ISS would make the orbiting platform less dependent on resupply of consumables including food and oxygen. And for future Deep Space missions, and lunar and Martian colonies mastering the technology to farm in space will be essential.