Lada

Named for the ancient Russian goddess of spring, Lada is a vegetation chamber created to provide a "space garden" for astronauts during their long flights. Launched aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket on 25 September 2002, Lada is hosted on the Russian segment of the ISS. Since its launch, Lada has produced a harvest of fresh vegetables, providing cosmonauts with nutritional meals and therapeutic activity.

SDL collaborated with the Russian Institute of Biomedical Problems to develop Lada. Because Lada enables scientists to conduct affordable and long-term research on plant development in space, NASA and other space agencies are considering using vegetable production units much like Lada as part of the ISS and Mars Transit flight support systems. SDL jointly owns the Lada hardware with the Russians, and experiments using the hardware are routinely flown as part of the Russian scientific program with USU investigators as partners.

Gardening in Space

Microgravity and in-space plant growth

Because microgravity conditions in space produce complications in root control and water movement, Lada uses special root systems. For soil, Lada uses granulated, non-oxidized clay enriched with a long duration time-release fertilizer. Lada also uses wicks used to seal the top openings in the roots, to hold the seeds in place during germination and to provide an easy access path to the surface.

Safety and health precautions

Samples of plant tissue from previous Lada crops are continually analyzed by flight surgeons to reduce safety risks. Such tests search for any dangerous microorganisms (such as bacteria and viruses) that initiate food-borne disease, develop in the closed ecosystem of the cabin, or spread through unsafe water distribution. Scientists also hope to alleviate plant exposure to ethylene, a colorless, flammable gas that reduces pollination and fruit development and is 5,000 times more toxic to plants than carbon monoxide is to humans.

Self-monitoring equipment and scheduled breaks from their rigorous schedules are now providing crew members with more personal time to relax on the ISS. Lada provides an ideal opportunity for therapeutic gardening and a respite from the pressures of cabin life. Crew members find the plant life refreshing and companionable, and they enjoy the recreational activity.

Benefits of Lada

Conservation and Nutrition

Lada’s original and long-term purpose is to provide the ISS crews with most of the food, fresh water, and oxygen they need during extended flights. Plant studies for Lada focus on crops with a rate of high production and low effort such as Mizuna, a lettuce-like plant native to Japan that can grow up to eight inches in three weeks. Other Lada plants include tomatoes, peas, radishes, peppers and rice.

A Cost- and Space-Efficient Greenhouse

As a wall-mounted system optimized to provide long-term plant growth, Lada takes up little space in the ISS. The small, low-cost growth chamber provides light and root zone control but relies on the cabin control systems for humidity, carbon dioxide and regulated temperature. For little more than the cost of ground studies, NASA can work to reduce risks involved in vegetation production units much like Lada.

Psychological Benefits

Self-monitoring equipment and scheduled breaks from their rigorous schedules are now providing crew members with more personal time to relax on the ISS. Lada provides an ideal opportunity for therapeutic gardening and a respite from the pressures of cabin life. Crew members find the plant life refreshing and companionable, and they enjoy the recreational activity.

Lada Components

The Lada system includes the following:

  • A control Module (center): 9.5” x 7” x 9.5” and approx. 14.75 lbs.
  • Two independent vegetation modules: 9” x 21.5” x 6.5” and approx. 11.5 lbs.
  • Two water reservoirs

With both growth chambers and lights on, the system uses approximately 200 Watts.