The experiments will help scientists better understand how plants are grown in microgravity conditions in space.
NASA has a long history of testing plant growth in space because it will solve one of the biggest problems in future space missions. Growing plants in space will not only help fulfill food requirements in outer space but also provide information about supporting life in microgravity conditions.
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Now, a team of NASA’s scientists ‘on ground’ is growing zinnia flower in Kennedy Space Center in Florida the same way as it was grown by Astronomer Scott Kelly on February 14, on Valentine Day. This will help scientists learn more about how plants are grown in space, which will be vital for long space travels in the future.
“We need to learn a tremendous amount to help develop more robust sustainable food production systems as NASA moves toward long-duration exploration and the journey to Mars.” Gioia Massa, a scientist at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center for Veggie said.
Growing plants in space is not similar to growing plants on Earth since conditions are different and more hostile that what a plant can experience on Earth. Scientists are especially interested in looking at those unexpected problems that a plant can likely face in space like the growth of fungus or the presence of mold on the leaves. All the plants, grown on ground, will be compared with the plants that are brought back to the Earth from space.
“Researchers hope to gather good data regarding long-duration seed stow and germination. Also, whether pollen could affect crew health and how having growing colorful flowering plants to grow could improve crew morale.” NASA’s blog says.
NASA has installed a plant growth facility called Veggie on International Space Station in May 2014 and have manage to grow lettuce and zinnia flower so far but they faced various issues during the first and the previous growth cycle.
“We are learning a tremendous amount from Veggie about plants and plant-human microbial interactions as part of NASA’s Space Biology Program,” said Massa. “And the knowledge gained on food productions helps fill gaps and mitigate food system risks.”
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The next Veggie experiment, Veg-03, will include the seeds of ’Outredgeous’ red romaine lettuce and Chinese cabbage variety called ‘Tokyo Bekana and both seeds will be delivered to space station through Commercial Resupply Service’s forthcoing trip to ISS.