International Space Station (ISS) crew members will sample the “Outredgeous” lettuce grown as part of NASA’s plant experiment Veg-01 in the Veggie plant growth system. It is giving new meaning to “Clean Eating”, astronauts must first clean the leafy greens with citric acid-based, food-safe sanitizing wipes before tucking in.
Vegetables harvested from Veg-01 are expected to provide both nutritional and psychological benefits for astronauts, according to the head of Advanced Life Support activities in the Exploration Research and Technology Programs Office Dr Ray Wheeler, who worked with engineers and collaborators to help develop the unit.
“Having fresh food like these available in space could have a positive impact on people’s moods and also could provide some protection against radiation in space,” Dr Wheeler. NASA Behavioral Health and Performance Research scientist Alexandra Whitmire said the psychological effects of plant life on humans in space would be evaluated. Ms Whitmire said, “Future spaceflight missions could involve four to six crew members living in a restricted space for an extended period of time, with limited communication.”
Ms Massa said having something green and growing a little piece of Earth in space to take care of when living and working in an extreme and stressful environment could have a significant impact. She said, “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.” It’ll be important to provide training that will be effective and equip the crew with adequate countermeasures during their mission.
Green-thumbed astronauts may as well use Veggie for recreational gardening during deep space missions, according to NASA. The lettuce was grown using rooting “pillows”, containing seeds which are activated, watered and cared for by astronauts.
Dr Massa said, “The crew does get some fresh fruits or vegetables, such as carrots or apples, when a supply ship arrives at the space station.”