Harvesting in Space

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World’s largest Space Organization has added one more achievement to their list. NASA has become successful in harvesting different types of plants in space. Earlier, Nasa grew leafy vegetables and dwarf wheat in the space station. With this, NASA has become the first space organization to achieve this feat.

On November 30, 2020, NASA astronaut Kate Rubins harvested radish successfully. This plant was planted and nurtured in the Advanced Plant Habitat(APH) aboard the International Space Station. A total of 20 radishes were planted. These 20 radishes were brought to Earth in 2021 on SpaceX’s 22nd Commercial Resupply Services mission. The radishes were carefully gathered and wrapped around the foil to get rotten on its return journey. 

Plant Habitat-02 Investigation aboard the International Space Station on November 30, 2020

This plant experiment was coined Plant Habitat-02(PH-02). It is the third plant experiment conducted by NASA, and that on the APH. It is a significant achievement for any space organization. NASA chose plants quite carefully. Radishes were selected because of two reasons. First, they are well understood by scientists and second, it matures in 27 days. NASA also needed the plant to be nutritious to know how foods are affected in space. Radishes are also edible and closer to cabbage, leafy vegetables. Usually, researchers study microgravity. This also didn’t take much time, like 27 days on Earth is a mere 10 seconds in space.

Nicole Dufour, NASA APH program manager at Kennedy Space Center, said, “Radishes are a different kind of crop than leafy greens that astronauts previously grew on the space station or dwarf wheat which was the first crop grown in the APH. Growing a range of crops helps us determine which plants thrive in microgravity and offer the best variety and nutritional balance for astronauts on long-duration missions. And these experiments will continue in the future.”

This feat was achieved with the help of two partner organizations. Techshot, the contract support team. They helped shape the payload from the start and were the guidance through the path in the space. This allowed scientists to assist the investigators and keep an eye on plants, even when researchers were not in the center. 

The second organization, Sierra Nevada Corporationwas responsible for monitoring the telemetry from the APH flight unit remotely. They also helped NASA manipulate some of the parameters according to the needs. 

Now, NASA can breathe a bit easier. NASA’s next plan to explore the Moon and Mars can be done without relying on food capsules and will also be cost-effective. Now the Space Astronauts can grow their food and have some nutritious and edible food. 

Funded by the Biological and Physical Science(BPS) division of NASA, this experiment has given positive results, as quoted by NASA’s official website. 

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