Astronauts grow plants in space

October 21, 2011 0 comments

Greenhouse enthusiasts might be interested to learn that astronauts have grown plants in purpose-built greenhouses in space.

Italian cosmonauts have sown 14 lettuce seeds in tiny custom-made greenhouses on the international space station. Of the 14 seeds, two of them germinated and grew on.

The astronauts were testing technology for the possibility of full-sized lunar greenhouses that are being developed by Italy and the US to be installed on the moon.

It is hoped that lettuce, as well as melons and cucumbers, being grown in the giant cylindrical structures will eventually provide half of the required calorie intake for astronauts on the way to Mars and other long-distance missions.

Space engineer and team member Marcia Pirolli said the reason for trying to develop greenhouses in space is that astronauts need to have fresh food and nutrients.

"But the second reason is the psychological aspect: research has shown that the astronauts could feel better if they can see something green like a plant," they added.

Earlier this month, construction began on a new field research facility to try and learn more about plant diseases and pests.

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