When it comes to astronauts living in space, people often think of vacuum packaged foods and the problems that come with zero gravity. However, experts have found a way to improve the lifestyle of astronauts in space by introducing the technology of growing fresh vegetables in space.
NASA is planning to send a Vegetable Production system (named VEGGIE for short) to the SpaceX Dragon in the International Space Station on 14th April this year. To explain the effectiveness of the prototype, Ph.D. and chief scientist Howard Levine states: “Our hope is that even though VEGGIE is not a highly complex plant growth apparatus, it will allow the crew to rapidly grow vegetables using a fairly simple nutrient and water delivery approach”.
By introducing the VEGGIE system to astronauts, they can easily grow fresh produce in 28 days, which serves as a long term solution for providing a steady supply of vegetables during their space mission. Instead of consuming tasteless vacuum packaged foods for the entire journey, astronauts can actually get some nutrients from consuming fresh vegetables. The system can be used to grow faster-growing plants within the given time period, such as lettuce, radishes, bok choy, Chinese cabbage and bitter leafy greens. For other vegetables such as tomatoes, peas or beans, these require a longer time to grow and hence might not be ideal for the astronauts’ journey in space.
Although the oxygen levels are much lower in space, the VEGGIE system can successfully grow plants, as it only requires 115 watts to function and a continuous airflow of oxygen and carbon dioxide are enough to grow fresh vegetables. Even if these amounts are relatively lower compared to Earth, the plants can grow within 28 days as long as there is also a sufficient amount of light.
Since NASA is making an effort to improve the living conditions of astronauts in space, maybe they could also solve the problems that come with zero gravity, such as constipation issues. Since there is zero or a very low amount of gravity in the spaceship, this often interferes with the regular bowel movements of astronauts.