Did you ever think that plants could grow in space? Thanks to the research of Spanish biologists from the Spanish National Research Council it will be possible to grow plants in space.
The Spanish astronaut, Pedro Duque, is primarily responsible for conducting the very first experiment on plant biology at the International Space Station (ISS). The experiment was prepared and conducted in collaboration with the American scientist John Kiss. This led to the 2009 Seedling Growth project which landed both teams the NASA Group Achievement award.
Duque claimed that one day humans will be able to plant vegetation in space in the interview with the magazine SiNC, “What human beings need to live on an outer planet is energy (the Sun’s), water (in the Moon’s ice caps there seems to be water and from it, oxygen is obtained, so therefore it is possible to replicate an atmosphere in which humans can live), living space and food. Plants provide vitamins and other elements of their own, in addition to oxygen, moisture and the ability to eliminate CO2. Plants are essential in life support for human space exploration.”
How are plants grown in space?
Although it may seem like news, plants have actually been growing in space for years, they simply just need more care and attention. Conditions in space are obviously not ideal for growing plants, but nevertheless it’s possible. There are plants growing in the International Space Station (ISS). These plants are cultivated and grown in specific conditions so that they can flourish. These chambers for the plants’ growth are set up with artificial light imitating the Sun, additionally, specific fertilized soil is used in order to ensure that the seeds can survive and grow. Water is also dispensed directly to the roots of the plants since it cannot flow freely in space and special fans are used to make sure that carbon dioxide and oxygen is continuously flowing.
The conditions for which these plants are put under are very specific and all controlled through computers from Earth… All astronauts have to do is add water for the plants and change out the filters for the chambers. Everything in the chambers (humidity, oxygen and carbon dioxide levels) are all controlled by scientists on Earth.
Science has allowed for the growth of lettuce, sunflowers, peas, radishes and other flowers in space.
The capability of growing plants in outer space will be applied and used in the future in order to ensure food growth and begin the first wave of crops once humans can travel to different planets. It also ensures that astronauts can survive with enough food on the journey to said different planets.
Although the experiments conducted regarding plant growth in space have the aim of being able to grow crops in outer space one day, it also aids astronauts in feeling more connected to Earth on their long journeys far away from home. It psychologically helps them with their moods and provides mundane activities for the astronauts to complete.
Of course, it also has its downsides as these plants are some of the only physical reminders these astronauts have of Earth on their long journeys, so when they don’t survive it is demoralising for them in a sense.
Although plants in space is not a relatively new concept, new advances are being made in science continuously to ensure that growing life in outer space will become easier and easier thus making it possible for crops to be able to grow in space on the day.