NASA Contemplates Growing Food on Mars

Science examines the potential for farming in space.

NASA Space Farming
Photo: © NASA / Getty Images

Food doesn't get any less local than when it comes from outer space. But that's not a concern for NASA scientists, who are cultivating ways to grow produce inside the International Space Station—and eventually, hopefully, on Mars.

Researchers believe that eating fresh vegetables will be essential for longer expeditions, but no one's sure how microgravity (as in space) will affect food and our bodies and minds. So several companies have jumped into space farming, which is not only a real thing but full of projects that sound like they come from bad science-fiction movies.

Orbital Technologies Corp. (ORBITEC) oversees the Veggie Hardware Validation Test (AKA Veg-01), a groundbreaking endeavor that has produced "a collapsible and expandable Veggie unit (which) features a flat-panel light bank that includes red, blue and green LEDs for plant growth and crew observation." In their latest experiment, a group of 44 astronauts had the chance to try space-grown, red romaine lettuce. The results are still being digested.

In another project, called Tomatosphere, high school kids in Chicago are working with NASA to see what happens if you send seeds on a round-trip mission to the International Space Station and then plant them back at home. No word yet on how the tomatoes look or taste.

Much of this work is preparation for when NASA's Orion spacecraft embarks on a trip to Mars in 2020. Which really makes you think twice about how you define things like local and sustainable.

[h/t Nature World News]

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