Astronauts living at the International Space Station took their first bites of space-grown lettuce on Monday, in what scientists described as another step toward enabling human missions to Mars.
“That is awesome,” NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren said after he ate a piece of red romaine lettuce that was grown in a special box aboard the orbiting outpost.
“Tastes good,” said US astronaut Scott Kelly, who is spending one year at the research station.
“Kind of like arugula,” Kelly added, using small bottles to spread extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar on his leaf.
NASA said that if space explorers can grow their own food while they are away from Earth, they would be more likely to survive the rigors of deep space exploration, which can last months or even years.
With no way to resupply a spacecraft making a long journey to and from Mars, the ability to cultivate food during a trip would be key to survival, Kelly said.
“This payload and having the ability for us to grow our own food is a big step in that direction,” he said.
Ray Wheeler, NASA’s lead scientist for advanced life support activities at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, said fresh foods that contain antioxidants, such as tomatoes, blueberries and red lettuce, “could have a positive impact on people’s moods and also could provide some protection against radiation in space.”
The red romaine lettuce was grown in a special plant-growing box called a Veggie unit, which was built by Orbital Technologies Corp in Madison, Wisconsin, and was flown to space aboard the SpaceX Dragon cargo ship.
The seeds are contained in rooting pillows, which come complete with soil and fertilizer.
Since water cannot be poured in space, a special irrigation system delivers moisture to the plant pillows from below.
The Veggie unit weighs about 7kg, is collapsible and expandable, and contains a light bank of red, blue and green LEDs to help plants grow.
Wheeler said that the idea for using LED lights to grow food in space dates back to the late 1990s. The seeds were “activated” by Kelly on July 8 and grew for 33 days.
On Monday, Lindgren donned blue gloves and used tongs to harvest the lettuce from its growing box, before attaching the leaves carefully to a tray.
He cleaned them with citric acid-based, food-safe sanitizing wipes and handed them, in a resealable bag, to Kelly and Japanese astronaut Kimiya Yui.
They saved a couple of leaves for Russian cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka, who were outside the station doing a spacewalk.
“They will eat half of the space bounty, setting aside the other half to be ... returned to Earth for scientific analysis,” NASA said on its Web site.
‘CONFESSED’: A court in Beijing said that former CCP member Ren Zhiqiang abused his power at a state firm and embezzled almost US$7.14 million of public funds A Chinese tycoon who called Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) a clown and criticized his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was yesterday jailed for 18 years for corruption, bribery and embezzlement of public funds. Ren Zhiqiang (任志強) — once among the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) inner circle — disappeared from the public eye in March, shortly after penning an essay that lambasted Xi’s pandemic response. His outspokenness had earned the former chairman of state-owned property developer Huayuan Group the nickname “Big Cannon.” Yesterday’s verdict said that Ren embezzled almost 50 million yuan (US$7.4 million) of public funds and accepted bribes worth 1.25 million
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
The scarcity of commercial flights landing at Sydney Airport has been a disaster for airlines and workers, but for hobby pilots the COVID-19 pandemic has provided the opportunity of a lifetime. The quieter-than-usual runways mean that private pilots have been given the chance to land at the international airport for the first time. When Sydney Flight College club captain Tim Lindley put out a call, he received an overwhelming response. He eventually organized for 14 light aircraft to fly into Sydney airport on Sunday. “For a lot of the pilots involved, including myself, it was a childhood dream to land in a big
ACADEMIC FREEDOM: One professor told her students to submit anonymized papers and not to record any online classes. Some US schools have announced similar steps Students at Oxford University specializing in the study of China are being asked to submit some papers anonymously to protect them from the possibility of retribution under the sweeping new security law introduced three months ago in Hong Kong. The anonymity ruling is to be applied in classes, and group tutorials are to be replaced by one-to-ones. Students are also to be warned that it will be viewed as a disciplinary offence if they tape classes or share them with outside groups. The Hong Kong National Security Law was imposed on June 30 by Beijing after more than a year of pro-democracy