Pepper growing on the ISS is just the beginning of space farming

Pepper growing on the ISS is just the beginning of

The conscious knowledge of growing a fertile crop can help reduce the psychological effects of long-term space travel. There is a special emotional connection to food that does not come from a space pantry with a lack of water. Spencer says the team slamming the APH door every day to check out their vegetable companions with all the offers of home gardeners. When autumn day arrived, they battled the ISS, taking selfies and enjoying watching the fruit pirouetting around the spaceship. Even when the sharp heat of that first bite caused them to peel up their faces, the astronauts were still appearing in the chiles, which they ate with fajita beef and rehydrated tomatoes and artichokes.

“We thought there was no heat, so [the peppers] they would not be dangerous, but the astronauts may need some spice in their lives, ”says Paul Bosland, who genetically invented with his colleagues at the Chilean Pepper Institute the Española-developed Chilean pepper seeds grown at Plant Habitat -04. (They are a new pride outside of New Mexico.)

Working with NASA, Bosland was developing a mix that could cover both the nutritional needs of astronauts as well as the logistics of growing plants in space. Bosland crosses are designed with Mars in mind: Bred to mature early, dense, efficient under low light, resilient in low pressure environments, and packed three times as much vitamin C orange to prevent scurvy .

All aspects of the plant growth cycle have been mechanized. Seeds were combined with specially developed manure in a clay medium without arselite, and each square was equipped with wicks that contained salt to protect the seeds from peeling due to residue saline of the manure. As soon as they grew, the astronauts were thinning the plants so that there were only four left. The 180-plus sensors controlled all aspects of their growth conditions, including changing the colors of the lights to stop their growth and keep them at a height of two. treatable foot.

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Despite the highly controlled growing environment, microgravity affected the plants in some unexpected ways. Without gravity thatching, the flowers and pollen-filled stomach grew. Ironically, that stopped the way the APH was supposed to pollinate them - by using fans whose soft air explosions meant moving pollen, like a wind. Instead, astronauts had to fill in like exterminating bees, pollinating them with one plant at a time.

Microgravity was also an irrigation challenge. As confirmed by the Canadian Space Agency, water behaves differently in microgravity than on Earth. Since it cannot fall, flow, or climb, water forms an aqueous coating encircling a surface no matter what it adheres to. But clingy water can suffer plant roots; as Bosland puts it, "Chilean peppers do not like wet feet."

This was one of the challenges that APH engineer and Kennedy Space Center research scientist Oscar Monje had to solve. The system recycled water in a closed loop; the whole test used about the same amount of water as an office water cooler. Moisture sensors controlled the actual amount that adhered to a root surface. Any water without water with the plant will then evaporate after moisture sensors form the arable environment. This is not technology ready to say, the moon or Mars. “The APH is currently using an unsustainable irrigation system for crop production. But it's good enough to do space biology experiments, ”says Monje.

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