When it comes to long-term space travel, such as the “100 Year Starship” initiative, there’s just not enough room to bring pre-packaged food for the entire duration of the trip, which means organic, garden-grown fruits and veggies are on the menu.
The only problem is that plants need gravity in order for the roots to create a foundation for the plant to grow. In space, this can be accomplished in several ways, with the easiest being a “prod” of sorts from the grower.
Once the roots have taken place, the astronaut reaches and plucks the top of the plant and brings it to the surface. After this, the plant will look for a source of light with which it will grow towards, just like it does normally on Earth.
Since the plant doesn’t have a gravitational orientation, this plucking is necessary, or else it will have no idea which way the surface of the soil is oriented. The plants themselves will look different from traditional plants, since gravity has no effect on them. This means they’ll stand upright, rather than droop downward.
The study of how plants grow and live in space is a necessary experiment to determine what success a long-term space journey would have with or without harvesting plants on-board. It also can show us how cells survive in space, and give us an insight into how life on our planet first began.
Below is a video explaining how NASA plans on using plants to clean up the air in the I.S.S.:
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