In November 2015 a flowering crop experiment began in space to see how plants grow in microgravity with the hope of astronauts potentially having access to healthy, freshly grown produce in space.
A chamber was equipped with LED lighting a root mat and ‘pillows’ of seeds, which were watered and cared for to see if and how plants would grow and respond. Many of the plants were wiped out by a drought and many became mouldy and died. One of the astronauts, Commander Scott Kelly, decided to relax the rigorous watering schedule and instead use his intuition as to when and how much to water the remaining plants. The result was the healthy, vigorous growth of a gorgeous, orange Zinnia which produced a stunning bloom. From this experiment, scientists hope to do more research on growing crops in microgravity, so that astronauts can get a dose of healthy greens whilst orbiting 220 miles above the surface of the Earth!
Not only does this research allow scientists to understand how plants grow in space, but it can also help us on Earth too. Using the same technology (LED lights, pillows and the watering system) could help us farm more efficiently, growing food in smaller spaces and with less energy!
Space lettuce anyone? 🥬
Credit: NASA - Space Station Research.
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