Essay 3 Report
PLANTS FROM OUTER SPACE
Did you know that we have Earth plants in space? It is completely true, it’s a project we call VEG-01, where the astronauts and cosmonauts on the International Space Station are growing their own plants, they have many different crops growing too. We’ll go into the details of that in a moment, first I want to give you a little information about the ISS (International Space Station).
We, and by we I mean the Earth as a whole, started to build the ISS November 1998, but it started on paper in 1984 when President Reagen instructed NASA to start the ISS Project, the reason it took 14 years to start was due to delays caused by cost overruns and redesigns of the ISS. The first project was called Freedom then later changed to Alpha, then as the world came together to create the ISS the name understandably changed to the International Space Station. The ISS is the first major project created by multiple nations the “Station construction involved at least 16 countries, including Canada, Japan, Brazil, and 11 members of the European Space Agency.” (Britannica)
Now why do we have plants in space? Its due to two main reasons, the first is we as a species are looking to go into space and start colonizing new planets, and in order to do so we have to have a self-reliant supply of food. Eventually we will use this same technology when we decide to colonize Mars. The second is because they are pretty to look at, and as humans we love to have plants in our living space. It sounds weird to think people who are so brilliant they are allowed to lead our civilization into a new era in space would need something as simple as a flower blossoming to raise their mood, but they are humans just like you and me. It might not be a necessity to have a pretty flower in space but its nice to think that the people who are doing amazing work for us have something that makes them happy.
How in the world is the ISS growing plants in space?! It all starts with a module in the ISS called VEG-01 or nicknamed Veggie. Its here that they started growing crops in May 2014 for 33 days, then froze them for scientific experiments. They grew “Outredgeous” red romaine lettuce for their first batch. Now if you are anything like me, you are wondering why they didn’t throw some croutons on it, pour some ranch and chow down? Its because in space there is a huge amount of radiation and our atmosphere reduces all the radiation to a livable situation. So, growing these crops in a possible radiation filled environment may cause some serious problems, especially if someone ate this radiated plant. After harvesting the plants, they froze the crops until October 2014 when the next expedition was able to arrive. At that point the scientists at the Florida NASA Base did experiments on the frozen lettuce to ensure that it was safe to eat. On Aug 10, 2015 the ISS Crew Members were finally able to taste the lettuce, it wasn’t much, they did not have ranch, and it was just a leaf each, but it’s a green start to growing food in space. The crew was able to eat about half the harvest, the other half was sent back to Earth for further testing.
Since then they have grown Zinnia flowers (same as the pictures above), they started growing these since the astronauts and cosmonauts weren’t able to eat the crops immediately, however they reported really enjoying the space farmer life. Having a little piece of Earth growing due to their care has major impacts on their mental health. Massa in an interview shares that they intend to extend the crop variation with a type of cherry tomato, called Red Robin, they yield large amounts of tomatoes with minimal growth space (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9JDAZBoLJUc). They also have picked Chinese Cabbage for an additional vegetable for growing. It isn’t extremely nutritious but it grows well and tastes good. NASA’s picks for vegetable crops aren’t only picked based on what astronauts need to survive in space, however it is a huge factor in choosing them. Based on the YouTube interview they intend to finish testing on the Chinese Cabbage by the end of 2017, and the Red Robin Tomatoes by the end of 2018.
Okay so they grew plants and they are up in space, how did they do it? Just plant some seeds in some dirt, open the space window and give it some sun and water? No, unfortunately its not as simple as that for space. Again, we must watch out for radiation, and the sun would probably be too strong for the plants there. The way they grew them is with a combination of Red and Blue LED lights instead of using raw sunlight. Together they make a pinkish-purple light which is only necessary for growing plants. However, they astronauts and cosmonauts are only human, they like plants the way they are on Earth, green. So, they implemented Green LED lights for their color to show green not purple. Fun fact there, plant pigments show green stronger then purple. They water the plants with a passive watering system, it’s a water tank that delivers the water on a timed schedule.
Okay, so we pretty much know everything we need know about plants on the ISS, but how are the humans being watered? Its called ECLSS it’s a water recovery system, it was designed like a loop, first water enters our astronaut’s mouths, it then comes out in various forms, moisty breaths, sweat, and even urine. ECLSS collects all of this and through chemical procedure it turns it back into drinkable water. Its sounds gross, but how do you expect to travel the stars without a necessity like water?
Without thinking long term, it may seem like a waste of money, however, long term it’s a very small step to achieving what many people of my generation have been dreaming of, to travel the universe. Also, in a shorter time frame, to live on Mars. Veggie and ECLSS are two major things needed for living on Mars, we need a self-sufficient supply of both water and food to start living on Mars. After Mars is eventually terraformed we can grow food and drink water straight from the planet, but before that can happen we need a base of operations and the ISS is a space blueprint for the first city on Mars.
Williamson, Mark, and MARK WILLIAMSON. “Space Stations, International Space Station.” Encyclopedia of 20th Century Technology, edited by Colin Hempstead, and William E. Worthington, Routledge, 1st edition, 2005. Credo Reference, https://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/routt/space_stations_international_space_station/0?institutionId=5312. Accessed 24 Jul. 2018.
Space Stations, International Space Station is exactly what it says, its about the ISS and when it started up and why it is important to us. It details different modules the ISS contains but focuses on the ISS as a whole. This scholarly report helps me define what the ISS is, and it also helps by giving me a credible source of dates and times when it was created. Mark Williamson is an expert in his field, he writes about many different space stations, and does deep, informed research about space stations.
Massa, Gioia D, Et Al., VEG-01: Veggie hardware validation testing on the International Space Station. Open Agriculture. 2017 January 1; 2(1): 33-41. DOI: 10.1515/opag-2017-0003. Accessed 24 Jul. 2018
This article goes into details about how the VEG-01 works and what it is doing. It details what plants and being produced and what they have learned from raising plants in space. By having a detailed report about the VEG-01 from a scholarly source it strengthens my report’s credibility about the knowledge that is presented from it. Massa has massive experience in this field, she works for NASA and has gone through extensive schooling to achieve her PH.D in Plant Biology.
Massa, Gioia D, Et Al., Plant pillow preparation for the Veggie Plant Growth System on the International Space Station. Gravitational and Space Research. 2017 July; 5(1): 24-34. Accessed 24 Jul. 2018
In short, this abstract defines the processes of the VEG-01. Without being an expert in this field its hard to grasp exactly what they are saying but they just simply defining what processes they use and what items were used for it. This short abstract helps by summarizing their experiments. Gioia Massa has a PH. D in Plant Biology and also a NASA Scientist focusing in food production.
Kremer, Ken, “First Space Zinnia Blooms and Catches Sun’s Rays on Space Station” https://www.universetoday.com/126908/first-space-zinnia-blooms-and-catches-suns-rays-on-space-station/ Accessed 24 Jul. 2018 Image
“International Space Station (ISS).” Britannica Concise Encyclopedia, Encyclopedia Britannica, Britannica Digital Learning, 2017. Credo Reference, https://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/ebconcise/international_space_station_iss/0?institutionId=5312. Accessed 24 Jul. 2018.
The Britannica Concise Encyclopedia is a combined knowledge of scholars who have mixed their studies for academic strength. It references all nations that assisted in building the ISS. This helps me because it helps me define the ISS partners who help create it. The Britannica has been proven reliable by many different scholars.
Herridge, Linda. “Meals Ready to Eat: Expedition 44 Crew Members Sample Leafy Greens Grown on Space Station. August 7, 2015. Updated August 13, 2015.” (2016). Accessed 24 Jul. 2018
This article explains how they grew the plants on the ISS. Also, it explains how and why they used certain lights to give the plants life/color. I used this because of the fact on how they used the lights to create plant-life in space. It’s a reliable source due to the fact that it was posted on NASA’s website, although I couldn’t find out if it were scholarly or not I did find it on Google Scholar.
“Space Station Live: Everything Is Coming Up Veggie” Youtube uploaded by NASA John,13 Apr 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9JDAZBoLJUc
Massa explains the VEG-01 and its benefits and their future plans for Veggie. She shares what crops are picked for future crops and what plants they are growing. This video is an extremely good example of scholarly evidence to support my report, and she clearly explains what I’m writing about in a summarized way. Massa is a NASA Scientist with a PH. D in Food Production.
Anonymous “File:ISS-34 Kevin Ford juggles some tomatoes.jpg” https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:ISS-34_Kevin_Ford_juggles_some_tomatoes.jpg Image Accessed Jul-26-2018
Melissa Gaskill “NASA Honors Those Conducting Innovative Space Station Research 2017” https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/news/ISSRnD_2018_Innovation_Awards Image Accessed Jul-29-2018
Anonymous “ISS ECLES” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ISS_ECLSS Image Accessed Jul-29-2018
Wired Staff “How to Get to Mars… And Maybe Even Live There” https://www.wired.com/2015/09/andy-weir-martian-how-to-live-on-mars/ Accessed Jul-29-2018