Vegetable Garden Coming To The International Space Station, So We'll Be Creating New Life In Space! (Sorta)
Vegetables in space! But how?! Are they safe? We have oh-so-many questions in response to Kennedy Space Center's recent announcement that it would provide International Space Station astronauts with their own garden. The Space Center is calling this project the "Vegetable Production System" — or Veggie for short.
The vegetables will be grown in a glass-like box under LED lights in the International Space Station. Instead of soil, the plants will grow in soil-like clay, and will also have fertilizer. The box also expands, like an accordion, which means that as the plants grow, it will expand upwards.
The Veggie project will kick off with just six heads of red romaine lettuce. And for now, the astronauts won't be eating the vegetables from the garden, just in case they might not be safe to eat. After all, growing vegetables in soil and under the sun is very different from different from growing vegetables in a space station, and there's a horror movie waiting in the wings if anything goes wrong. ("Alien Space Plants Strike Back!")
On its website, the ISS offers an explanation of why they began Veggie.
With the long-duration missions aboard the International Space Station (ISS), it has become clear that more emphasis needs to be placed on improving human habitability. The Vegetable Production System (VEGGIE) provides a means to supply crews with a continuous source of fresh food and a tool for relaxation and recreation.
VEGGIE can support a variety of experiments used to determine how plants sense and respond to gravity. The plants will be harvested for further investigation and consumed by the crew members.
Once the plants grow to about six inches tall, astronauts plan to securely seal them in foil and a plastic bag to return them to Earth, possibly around June 2014. On Earth, scientists will determine if the plants have bacteria or anything else that would make it unsafe to eat.
We'll have to wait until at least March 30 for the plants to be transported to the ISS, but we're still pretty ecstatic at the thought that, even if we don't find life in outer space, astronauts could create their own life forms! (Kinda.)