NASA To Grow Vegetables In Space With Its Special “Pillows”

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National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has long been working on the concept of space farming. With SpaceX-3 resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS), NASA has sent a batch of lettuce beyond the earth’s atmosphere. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket with a Dragon freighter took off at 16:58 EST from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

NASA’s primary goal is to determine food safety

The flight is carrying more than five tons of food and supplies. Astronauts at the ISS will receive it on Wednesday. Most importantly, the Dragon craft is carrying a vegetable production system called “Veggie.” Astronauts aboard the ISS will be conducting NASA’s Veg-01 experiment to assess the possibility of growing vegetables in space.

Veggie, the plant growth chamber, has plants in special “pillows” with blue, red and green LEDs. The growth chamber provides nutrient delivery and lighting. But it depends on the cabin’s carbon dioxide and temperature to facilitate plant growth. NASA payload scientist for Veggie, Gioia Massa said in a statement that it will provide a new resource for researchers and astronauts. Massa said determining food safety will be their primary goal for this test.

NASA would help astronauts eat fresh food more frequently

The Veggie system was developed by Orbital Technologies. The Madison, Wisconsin-based company later worked with NASA engineers to get the system certified for use in the space station. According to NASA, Veggie is about the size of a normal microwave, and weighs roughly 15 pounds. It will help astronauts aboard the ISS eat fresh food more frequently, which is a rarity 400 kilometers above the earth. What’s more, recreational gardening would help researchers feel less out of touch.

The only crops sent to space so far are lettuce seedlings. But NASA has successfully grown peas, radishes, Chinese cabbage and Swiss chard inside the Veggie plant growth chamber. This SpaceX mission has been delayed twice, on March 14 and March 30. It was SpaceX’s fourth mission to the ISS, and is the third time it’s carrying supplies to the space station. NASA awarded SpaceX a $1.6 billion resupply contract after the end of its own shuttle program.

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