Astronauts in ISS could grow beans in 2021
New Delhi : Growing food in space far away from human civilization is a big achievement achieved by scientists some three years ago. After growing lettuce, the crew members in the International Space Station could grow beans in 2021, a new research suggests.
The beans can be cultivates in high-tech planters developed at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). These planters can regulate all the water, nutrients, gas and air the plants require.
NTNU in collaborating with Italian and French researchers conducted study to cultivate plant-based food for long space trip.
The cultivation of food in space could be vital to help astronauts stay there for long time to undertake deep space missions.
The European Space Agency plans to build a lunar base in 2030 as a stopover on the way to Mars. NASA plans to fly directly to the planet with a target landing date of 2030.
According to the study published in the journal Life, scientists performed three experiments, the first two experiments determined the effect of restricted rooting and nutrient solution volumes, and based on this a third experiment was performed to assess plant responses to various nitrate nutrient solution concentrations.
“We found that plants can, in a way, ‘smell’ the amount of nutrients available to them. When the nitrogen concentration is very low, the plant will absorb more water and thus more nitrogen until it reaches an optimal level,” said Silje Wolff, a plant physiologist at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Space (CIRiS), which is part of NTNU Social Research.
“The plant has a mechanism that turns on when the nitrogen level is adequate. Then it adjusts both nitrogen and water absorption down,” Ms. Wolff added.
Crew members say that the step to grow beans in space will help to observe the effect of no gravity on plants’ ability to transport water and absorb nutrients. The beans would be placed in a centrifuge to sprout and grow in the space station. The centrifuge would be rotated to create different amounts of gravity.
“The art of getting something to grow in space can be transferred to our planet,” Ms. Wolff said.
“This is how we create a setup that produces both the microgravity conditions in the space station and the 1-g (gravity) force that exists on Earth.”
“The dream of every astronaut is to be able to eat fresh food — like strawberries, cherry tomatoes or anything that’s really flavorful. Someday that will certainly be possible. We envision a greenhouse with several varieties of vegetables,” Ms. Wolff said.