Most of us on Earth take freshly grown lettuce for granted. But for the astronauts aboard the International Space Station, freshly grown greens are a luxury that they are just now experiencing for the first time.
As part of a NASA scientific investigation known as Veg-01, astronaut Scott Kelly has spent the last 33 days growing and harvesting a small crop of red romaine lettuce aboard the ISS. The lettuce is ready to eat, the first instance of produce being grown in microgravity for human consumption. Half of the crop will be returned to Earth for research purposes.
The Veg-01 investigation is part of NASA's larger mission to investigate the impacts of long-duration spaceflight on the human body. Researchers hope to mitigate some of the physical and psychological impacts of spaceflight by giving astronauts the opportunity to garden and then eat what they grow.
"The farther and longer humans go away from Earth, the greater the need to be able to grow plants for food, atmosphere recycling and psychological benefits. I think that plant systems will become important components of any long-duration exploration scenario," NASA payload scientists Gioia Massa said in a press release.
In the future, the technology could potentially be deployed to space colonies on other planets.
Expedition 39 Flight Engineer Steve Swanson also grew lettuce on the ISS in May 2014, although that crop was returned to Earth and used strictly for research.
It's been an exciting culinary year in space: in May, the ISS started serving up freshly brewed espresso.
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