Reel-life astronaut Mark Watney from The Martian created history by growing potatoes on Mars, but our real-life astronauts are not far behind. Astronauts of NASA are now experimenting to grow radishes in the microgravity of space.
The space-war is on and most countries are trying to be the first colony on either Moon or Mars. But setting up a colony means supplementing the astronauts with nutrition, and the dehydrated packaged meals taken from Earth cannot be the permanent solution, especially when the proposed Mars mission will likely be two-years long. Growing plants and farming are the essence of civilisation, not only to provide fresh food, minerals and nutrients but to have a semblance of home.
The multiple researches conducted in the microgravity conditions of the International Space Station (ISS) have greatly helped researchers down on Earth to learn more about space-farming. They have managed to learn how plants would react to different space stimuli, if they can survive under red or blue light.
While at a distance of 408 kilometres from the Earth’s surface, NASA astronaut Kate Rubins shared a milestone with photographs of Plant Habitat-02 (PH-02) experiment aboard the International Space Station with radish saplings growing on the floating space lab.
According to the official website, the radish was chosen as it is a “model plant.” Radishes are a great source of nutrition and have relatively short cultivation period. Otherwise, the most studied plant in microgravity is Arabidopsis, a plant similar to mustard and cabbage; but it’s not as widely consumed or filling as a radish.
The plants growing without gravity may have difficulty in rooting to the soil. So the seeds there are sown into “pillows” and fertiliser, water is distributed properly across the growing saplings. The plants have been growing for 27 days now with little maintenance from the crew. There are LED lights, like a disco, inside the chamber. Like a reality show, these celebrity plants have more than 180 sensors and multiple cameras tracking their every move as they grow. This data is delivered at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to monitor plant growth. There they study how to regulate conditions like moisture levels, water distribution, and temperature for optimum growth.
The plants will be harvested by the crew soon and sent to Earth for analysis.