Space Travelers: Eat Your Vegetables!

By Leonard David
March 9, 2004

Research into the art of growing and tending vegetables in space is being pursued on the ISS.

Researchers are trying to harvest new data on the kinds of vegetables to grow in space. Part of their studies are also evaluating how best to clean vegetables, as well as the psychological effects on astronauts and cosmonauts in caring for and consuming vegetables.

The work is being undertaken under a three-year NASA contract by the Space Dynamics Laboratory (SDL), a unit of Utah State University Research Foundation in Logan.

SDL work is in partnership with the Russian Institute of Bio-Medical Problems (IBMP). That collaboration is based on the Svet growth chamber used on Russia's Mir station. More recently the team developed Lada, a small growth chamber hosted in the Russian segment of the International Space Station (ISS).

Lada hardware will perform research to aid in developing procedures for a future large-scale growth chamber called the Vegetable Production Unit.

The new contract involves three areas. The first is to research different types of plants and to check the plants' yields on the ground using Lada. SDL will then verify the plant yields performing the same experiments using Lada on the ISS.

Food safety and diet needs are the second aspect of the NASA contract. SDL will perform research on the different types of plants to satisfy nutritional needs and different cultural backgrounds. To ensure astronaut health, SDL will work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to develop procedures for cleaning the vegetables for consumption.

Lastly, the work will also help determine the psychological effects of vegetable production in space.

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