Space Station grown lettuce is just as nutritious as on Earth, and in the future can be grown for deep space trips.
Kennedy Space Center’s Dr. Gioia Massa, co-author of a paper on the research, explains:
“The International Space Station is serving as a test bed for future long-duration missions, and these types of crop growth tests are helping to expand the suite of candidates that can be effectively grown in microgravity. Future tests will study other types of leafy crops as well as small fruits like pepper and tomatoes, to help provide supplemental fresh produce for the astronaut diet.”
“Right now we cannot guarantee that we will have a diet to meet the needs of the crew for these longer, deep space missions, so one potential solution will be to supplement the packaged diet with fresh produce. This ‘space-grown lettuce’ will provide additional vitamins and other nutrients, flavors, textures and variety to the packaged diet. Growing plants may also help with menu fatigue and provide psychological benefits when astronauts are far from home. In the long term, if we ever want to have space colonization, growth of crops will be crucial for establishing any level of sustainability and self-sufficiency.
In addition to providing food, plants may also play a role in future Life Support Systems needed for long-duration missions. Plants generate oxygen as well as remove and fix carbon dioxide, which is critical in closed systems like the ISS or future moon/Mars facilities.”
Images credit NASA
The paper published in the Frontiers in Plant Science