In the past couple years, we’ve already seen how NASA astronauts on the International Space Station are not only growing, but actually eating produce harvested in space – things like lettuce and cabbage. Granted, the amounts being grown are barely enough to make a proper salad, let alone start pairing it with wine. But the fact that NASA has been able to successfully grow anything at all led Gizmodo to jump to the big question: When can we expect our first vintage of space wine?
“Wine grapes would be an interesting challenge,” said Gioia Massa, principal investigator for NASA’s Vegetable Production System also known as “Veggie.” “We have been working with some dwarf fruit trees that the USDA developed, and I have heard that they also have some dwarf grape vines, so if the plants were small enough or could be trained around, for example, lights, it would certainly be possible to grow them.”
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According to Massa, the biggest issues with grape vines are the size and the way they grow. “Most plants for space are super compact, but if you had vines that you could coil or clip a larger plant might be an option,” Massa explained. “Getting light to a sprawling vine is definitely a challenge...you would want very compact varieties.” Maybe NASA could speak with the winemakers of Santorini about how to grow vines in that crazy basket shape? But even then, another major challenge would be pollination. Massa says next year astronauts will attempt to pollinate dwarf tomatoes by hand, a process that could possibly be replicated with grapes.