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Space Food From Space Farms

Soulskill posted about 10 months ago | from the i'll-have-a-space-burger-with-space-fries-please dept.

NASA 168

Modern Farmer magazine has an article about NASA's efforts into growing food in space, a slow, difficult process that's nonetheless necessary if humanity is to have any significant presence away from Earth's surface. Quoting: "This December, NASA plans to launch a set of Kevlar pillow-packs, filled with a material akin to kitty litter, functioning as planters for six romaine lettuce plants. The burgundy-hued lettuce (NASA favors the 'Outredgeous' strain) will be grown under bright-pink LED lights, ready to harvest after just 28 days. NASA has a long history of testing plant growth in space, but the goals have been largely academic. Experiments have included figuring out the effects of zero-gravity on plant growth, testing quick-grow sprouts on shuttle missions and assessing the viability of different kinds of artificial light. But [the Vegetable Production System] is NASA's first attempt to grow produce that could actually sustain space travelers. Naturally, the dream is to create a regenerative growth system, so food could be continually grown on the space station — or, potentially, on moon colonies or Mars. ... Plant size is a vital calculation in determining what to grow on the space station, where every square foot is carefully allotted. Harvest time is also of extreme importance; the program wants to maximize growth cycles within each crew’s (on average) six-month stay."

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168 comments

Fertilizer... (2)

Joce640k (829181) | about 10 months ago | (#44817867)

What will they use as fertilizer?

Re:Fertilizer... (2)

ketomax (2859503) | about 10 months ago | (#44817915)

MANure

Re:Fertilizer... (3, Informative)

Errol backfiring (1280012) | about 10 months ago | (#44818067)

I suppose you mean humanure. See the Humanure Handbook [humanurehandbook.com] . Not exactly rocket science, and it is widely tested on earth.

Re:Fertilizer... (2)

deburg (838010) | about 10 months ago | (#44818103)

This reminded me of an old SF story by Asimov. Humans stranded on hostile environment planet, struggling to terraform the environment. Dying one by one, their bodies finally providing the soil for the earth seedstock, but alas not in time for the last survivor. Sniff.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Founding_Father_(short_story) [wikipedia.org]

Re:Fertilizer... (3, Informative)

mcgrew (92797) | about 10 months ago | (#44820285)

Full text of the story, [readanybooks.net] thank you, that was one I hadn't seen.

Re:Fertilizer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44817933)

The fertilizer is covered under the don't ask don't tell article.

Re:Fertilizer... (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 10 months ago | (#44817951)

Why not make it?
http://peakoildebunked.blogspot.ie/2007/11/314-peak-oil-and-fertilizer-no-problem.html [blogspot.ie]

There's an abundance of everything we need in space, although I can see stations being a far more convenient platform for future exploration than planetary colonisation. Even the best candidate, Mars, is terrible - where it's warm there is no water, where there's water it's in the -30s at least, an atmosphere as close to vacuum as makes no odds and while it does have gravity I doubt it's enough to stop bone weakening.

Venus now, if we could fix the atmospherre there it could be earth 2 pretty easily. And I suppose add water.

But really for the short to mid term I can't see many valid reasons beyond science that we'd want to colonise nearby worlds. Ultimately I guess we'll be producing most of our food and manufactured goods on space stations, earth will be the place where people live, with much of it returned to virgin wilderness.

Re:Fertilizer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44818501)

"There's an abundance of everything we need in space"

1)If that were true, how come we need to bring everything?

2)Space is a dead vacuum, with a few rocks here and there separated by light hours of nothing. If that's "abundant" to you, can I send you there one way?

" if we could fix the atmospherre there it could be earth 2 pretty easily."

Oh of course and if farts were turbofans I'd be supersonic. Any other poo brain nonsense you want to share with us today before the nurse adjusts your drip?

Re:Fertilizer... (0)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 10 months ago | (#44819093)

"There's an abundance of everything we need in space"

1)If that were true, how come we need to bring everything?

Yes, because European colonists in the new world went forth boldly into the wilderness stark bollock naked, preferring to gnaw their tools from the deadfalls and cliffs they encountered. It takes time to set things up, but once you're set up you have an abundance in virgin territory. The tools are different but the principle is the same.

2)Space is a dead vacuum, with a few rocks here and there separated by light hours of nothing. If that's "abundant" to you, can I send you there one way?

Doesn't matter how far away the resources are as long as you have a steady supply line. Although in terms of the time it will take to get there, they aren't that far away at all. One such resource is the asteroid Eros.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/sci/tech/401227.stm [bbc.co.uk]

Oh gosh, more base and precious metals than have ever or could ever be mined from the surface of the earth you say, and a giant natural furnace at your back to help extract and refine them, without ever having to care about environmental issues? I can see why nobody would be interested in doing that, or even call it abundance.

And that's just one rock. There are millions of them.

Re:Fertilizer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44819167)

"Yes, because European colonists in the new world went forth boldly into the wilderness stark bollock naked, preferring to gnaw their tools from the deadfalls and cliffs they encountered. It takes time to set things up, but once you're set up you have an abundance in virgin territory. The tools are different but the principle is the same."

So you're comparing the environment of the new world, which is ON this planet, with space? Really? REALLY?

"Doesn't matter how far away the resources are as long as you have a steady supply line."

Again, you're postulating fantasy-levels of non-existent technology, and just glossing it over.

"Oh gosh, more base and precious metals than have ever or could ever be mined from the surface of the earth you say,"

And sadly, so far away and so resource intensive to get, that it makes no sense. If you had the massive resources and energy required to get them, you don't HAVE a resource and energy problem. Sadly, after having read your posting history here, I must conclude that you are either a child or mentally challenged.

None of your posts ever goes beyond hopeful and wishful thinking, there isn't a shred of practical or feasible engineering there.

Re:Fertilizer... (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 10 months ago | (#44819445)

Never heard of maglaunch eh? :D

Anyway I'll stop feeding the troll now, although it was a useful opportunity to get the knowledge out there, playtime is over.

Re:Fertilizer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44819559)

"knowledge"? Cartoon physics and over the top hypotheticals that will never happen? This is "knowledge" to you!?? Grow up you pathetic clown. In ten years when nothing at all will have changed what will you do then?

Re:Fertilizer... (1)

Khyber (864651) | about 10 months ago | (#44820379)

Your knowledge is garbage.

You said there was everything we needed in space. Your vaunted maglaunch recommendation hints at the fact that THERE IS NOTHING IN SPACE TO BE USED.

Please try again when you actually do this for a living and have worked with NASA on these things before.

Re:Fertilizer... (1)

Khyber (864651) | about 10 months ago | (#44820357)

"There's an abundance of everything we need in space"

Yes, you tell me where we're going to get nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, and other trace elements IN ORBIT.

Re:Fertilizer... (1)

websitebroke (996163) | about 10 months ago | (#44818413)

Maybe the "kitty-litter like" substance is a clue?

Re:Fertilizer... (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about 10 months ago | (#44818539)

The "kitty-litter like" substance sounded like (to me) just material to hold the plant in place, since you don't have gravity to do it for you. However, it seems they would go with aeroponics [wikipedia.org] instead?

Re:Fertilizer... (1)

Khyber (864651) | about 10 months ago | (#44820391)

No, you would not do aeroponics. You would do a mat-based NFT system that would utilize capillary action to ensure even moisture and nutrient content at the roots and contain water (as aeroponics in zero gravity is a huge mistake.)

Re:Fertilizer... (1)

X0563511 (793323) | about 10 months ago | (#44820567)

Then why is/was NASA the one doing all those aeroponics experiments (successfully) in orbit?

can I haz CATstronaut now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44818631)

NASA needs to get with the 21st freakin' century and launch a cats in space program right now. Teh intarwebs demands livestreaming zero-g lolcats 24-7. No wonder Congress keeps screwing with their funding.

Re:Fertilizer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44819809)

Is it a Space Nutter's brain?

Re:Fertilizer... Pigs in Space! (1)

pubwvj (1045960) | about 10 months ago | (#44818643)

The same thing we use for fertilizer here on earth. The good shit. Animal agriculture is a vital part of the equation. Plants and animals co-evolved to use each others wastes.

Re:Fertilizer... Pigs in Space! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44820139)

Who knew the Muppets were so forward thinking?

Re:Fertilizer... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44819277)

I grow lettuce hydroponically and you can just about grow it with just hard water. Good luck growing anything that fruits under LED's though.

Re:Fertilizer... (1)

Khyber (864651) | about 10 months ago | (#44820405)

"Good luck growing anything that fruits under LED's though."

I've had no problems getting jalapenos, soybeans, bush beans, tomatoes, cannabis, bell peppers, and other vegetables to fruit under LED and yield great.

What nonsense are you spilling?

Re:Fertilizer... (1)

Khyber (864651) | about 10 months ago | (#44820347)

If they're smart, they'll use solid salt extracts from seawater (look up SEA-90,) supplement the lacking N and P with potash and solid nitrates, and use the water onboard in a very conservative capillary-action root mat + NFT system that will drastically reduce the water usage and waste.

Trying to recycle human waste into fertilizer would be extremely energy intensive and potentially hazardous contamination-wise.

in space, no one can you you "whoosh" (1)

Thud457 (234763) | about 10 months ago | (#44820553)

Trying to recycle human waste into fertilizer would be extremely energy intensive and potentially hazardous contamination-wise.

Exposing human waste to hard vacuum and direct sunlight for a while wouldn't be sufficient to sterilize it? I'm actually curious about that.
That would make space toilet design a lot easier. You just need to avoid what happened to U-1206 [wikipedia.org]

Vertical or Urban Farms? (2)

delt0r (999393) | about 10 months ago | (#44817885)

I would be more interested in terrestrial applications. Removing pressure on habitats or even letting current farmland revert back to natural habitats would have a large impact on the plasticity of many ecosystems. In short making them more robust to changes in climate for example.

Re:Vertical or Urban Farms? (2)

Lumpy (12016) | about 10 months ago | (#44818179)

Why? Earth hydroponics already works fantastically. We already have the technology to do it here significantly more efficient. I can grown in a 20X60 greenhouse enough food to easily feed 20 people. The problem is that it's more expensive and takes more labor. 14 foot tall tomato plants take a lot of care, you havet orun pumps 24/7, etc...

It's a lot cheaper to just spread seed over a giant farm ad hope for the best.

Re:Vertical or Urban Farms? (1)

delt0r (999393) | about 10 months ago | (#44818325)

Interesting. I would have thought it would be much less labor since everything is closer and in a more controlled environment. That could even lend itself to more automation. Why is it more labor? After all you can't really just "spread seed" for tomatoes in general, at least in my limited experience.

Re:Vertical or Urban Farms? (1)

Khyber (864651) | about 10 months ago | (#44819059)

". The problem is that it's more expensive and takes more labor. "

Not even close. It's more expensive on fuel alone to do open-land farming.

More labor? With everything packed into a dense area that's LESS labor (and expended energy and fuel.)

"you havet orun pumps 24/7, "

Not even close AGAIN! NFT systems only roll three watering cycles a day.

Methinks you're looking at the least efficient methods of hydroponics, or you're horrible at the entire thing in the first place.

Re:Vertical or Urban Farms? (1)

MickLinux (579158) | about 10 months ago | (#44819657)

This. If you can avoid importing pests and diseases, then variants of the French biointensive method are probably best for (1) diet (2) converting CO2 to O2, (3) space constraints. Likewise, very little is as effective at energy-efficiency, as human labor. Again, the human labor provides the astronauts with something to do.

I'd suggest that one should calculate how much plant space you need to support each astronaut's breathing, and then go from there. Use the mechanical scrubbers as an automated emergency backup (with alarms), but other than that, let them remain unused.

Re:Vertical or Urban Farms? (1)

N1AK (864906) | about 10 months ago | (#44819787)

And that is why traditional agriculture died out and everything is grown in multi-story, controlled environment greenhouses today...

Unless you're suggesting that there is a conspiracy to stop hydroponics then the very fact that it is the exception and not the norm is evidence enough; however if you're sure that it is so much more profitable then by all means set up a firm and make a killing and I'll be the first to admit that Khyber was not, in fact, making shit up.

Re:Vertical or Urban Farms? (1)

Khyber (864651) | about 10 months ago | (#44820259)

" however if you're sure that it is so much more profitable then by all means set up a firm and make a killing and I'll be the first to admit that Khyber was not, in fact, making shit up."

Okay, done deal.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ZTikdxj8AI [youtube.com]

Hey, look! There's my old company ON THE FUCKING BBC WITH ZERO-LIGHT PRODUCTION TECHNOLOGY COMBINED WITH VERTICAL SYSTEMS.

Re:Vertical or Urban Farms? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44820329)

Again, you have never done ANY hydroponics yet pass yourself off as an expert.
Hydro farming takes DAILY attention. you cant plant them and look at the field in a month. you must tend to the whole habitat multiple times a day.

Come on back when you know what you are talking about as lumpy is technically correct and you are just grasping at straws based on very basic assumptions.

Re:Vertical or Urban Farms? (1)

Khyber (864651) | about 10 months ago | (#44820533)

"Hydro farming takes DAILY attention."

Actually, a well-built hydro system runs itself.

But you wouldn't know jack shit about the systems involved in automating such a process, now would you?

On the other hand, I know way more than you or lumpy combined, as it's my fucking job. [imgur.com]

I also design new methods of lighting plants in said systems. [tinypic.com]

And what would YOU know, child?

Re:Vertical or Urban Farms? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44818581)

Why is a field of grass more natural than field of wheat?

Re:Vertical or Urban Farms? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44819011)

Not an artificial monoculture, not subject to erosion related to harvest cycles, not losing soil organic content due to artificial nitrogen fixing, etc.

The other issue is that there is a lot of energy used in harvesting a low-density plot of conventional agriculture (tractors, etc). Plus, using up the space means that the _next_ plot has an even higher energy consumption since you have to ship everything past it.

The vertical approach is far more sustainable and scalable, in the long term. I agree with the parent comment in that it also seems like the good first step to going into space with it but this sounds more like this mission is just to test out some ideas. Real space deployment would benefit from the terrestrial vertical knowledge, I would expect.

Re:Vertical or Urban Farms? (1)

delt0r (999393) | about 10 months ago | (#44819379)

Where i came from, it was all Forrest and bush. We have chopped down and burnt a lot of trees.

Re:Vertical or Urban Farms? (1)

IAmStrider (1391613) | about 10 months ago | (#44819387)

In a station with gravity equivalent to the surface of the moon or greater, go with aquaponics. Aquaponics is hydroponics with fish and bacteria included in the system. Instead of soil, you use expanded shale as the growth medium in the grow bed. Red worms live in GB and digest any dead roots or leaves, nitrobacter converts the ammonia waste from the fish into nitrite and nitrate which the plants then take up as nutrients. There are certain plants that can be grown that can provide a good portion of the food required by the fish but you may need to provide an external protein source. Black soldier fly larvae are an excellent choice here for protein as they could readily digest the food waste in the station's compost pile.

Wasted effort (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44817893)

I think it's a waste of time trying to solve issues of maintaining a biosphere in space, when a push into space will be much easier after we've reached the Singularity: machine bodies don't need food, air or water.

Re:Wasted effort (4, Insightful)

somersault (912633) | about 10 months ago | (#44817969)

Machines don't need bodies at all. In fact, machines don't want or need anything. Humans are curious though, and like to do essentially pointless things just because we can. So we're going to have our biosphere in space.

Besides, the Singularity is just about AI. It doesn't follow that humans are immediately going to go extinct. We may have decent cyborg bodies before then anyway, and so could reduce our food/air/water requirements too.

Re:Wasted effort (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | about 10 months ago | (#44818385)

Besides, the Singularity is just about AI.

You clearly haven't read the book. Short answer is no it's not. Kurzwell goes into great detail how AI, nanotech, and other technology will allow us to slowly merge with technology until we are no longer just biological. If you are going to make pronouncements as what the singularity is, at least read the damn book.

Re:Wasted effort (1)

somersault (912633) | about 10 months ago | (#44818537)

What makes you think that the idea of the singularity is from a single book? Presumably you're referring to Kurzweil's 2005 book. That's just one person's vision of a general concept that has been around since the 1950s:

The technological singularity, or simply the singularity, is a theoretical point in time when human technology (and, particularly, technological intelligence) will have so rapidly progressed that, ultimately, a greater-than-human intelligence will emerge

Re:Wasted effort (2)

fritsd (924429) | about 10 months ago | (#44818083)

Obligatory Dilbert [dilbert.com]

Re:Wasted effort (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44818105)

I think it's a waste of time trying to solve issues of maintaining a biosphere in space, when a push into space will be much easier after we've reached the Singularity: machine bodies don't need food, air or water.

I think it's a waste of time trying to solve issues of maintaining a biosphere in space, when giving up the whole idea is much easier. Then we don't need to produce food, air or water in space.

Re:Wasted effort (2)

khallow (566160) | about 10 months ago | (#44818215)

I think it's a waste of time trying to solve issues of maintaining a biosphere in space, when a push into space will be much easier after we've reached the Singularity: machine bodies don't need food, air or water.

I was told back in 2000 that the Singularity would solve the problem of cheap access to space in twenty years. So we have about seven years to go.

Second, we are already machines. But machines that happen to need food, air, and water. There's no particular reason to wait for the Singularity to do things which we can do now.

per square foot or square meter? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44817905)

"Plant size is a vital calculation in determining what to grow on the space station, where every square foot is carefully allotted. "

Square ft on the US part of ISS, square meters (or square decimeters) on the Russian/European parts

Re:per square foot or square meter? (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | about 10 months ago | (#44820447)

So, you're saying that the Russians, and Euro's by using Metric don't really know how big the sizes are? Oh, oh; this is not good.

Spacecraft are Three Dimensional (2)

barlevg (2111272) | about 10 months ago | (#44817967)

every square foot is carefully allotted

Shouldn't that be CUBIC foot (or, more likely, meter, as the AC above pointed out)? Square footage is only a good measure when you're tethered to the floor.

Re:Spacecraft are Three Dimensional (1)

dywolf (2673597) | about 10 months ago | (#44819193)

gardens are laid out by square footage.
given that they probably dont want their plants floating in balls of soil in the middle of the room....they would be secured to the wall or floor of the module.
you said yourself "tethered to the floor" ... well thats exactly what happens with plants.

also, quibbling over units used for a phrase uttered to illustrrate a concept rather than an actual measurement is silly.

Re:Spacecraft are Three Dimensional (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44819779)

They could be placed on stacks of shelves.

plants don't like zero gravity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44817987)

so grow 'em in a rotating capsule with lights in the middle.

problem solved.

Re:plants don't like zero gravity (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 10 months ago | (#44818197)

Capsule will have to be large as you will lose artificial gravity as you approach the center.

Re:plants don't like zero gravity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44818321)

Stays are light and cheap.

Re:plants don't like zero gravity (1)

Mitchell314 (1576581) | about 10 months ago | (#44818529)

I don't see why we have to use land plants. Why not something like fungi or algae genetically modified to supply the essentials? Or a combination of such things.

Re:plants don't like zero gravity (1)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | about 10 months ago | (#44818657)

Largely coz they don't exist. The closest is mycoprotein for synethic meat products, and its still a labor intensive process. Plants, if they grow, pretty much handle it themselves.

SPACE !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44817993)

The final frontier ??

No it is not !!

oxigen (2)

Thanshin (1188877) | about 10 months ago | (#44817995)

Will this bring a significant improvement in oxygen recycling?

Re:oxigen (4, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 10 months ago | (#44818047)

Not yet. Eventually, yes. They could grow basil onboard the station. Basil respirates all night (baby) and it's edible and has a ton of health benefits, so it's a logical choice.

However, it makes less than no sense to grow in a soil-like medium. They should be using aeroponics. Growing in any solid medium at all is just fucking stupid, because it's unnecessary mass.

Re:oxigen (4, Informative)

Lumpy (12016) | about 10 months ago | (#44818205)

They are looking to reduce maintenance and power use. Aero and hydroponics requires constant power. Dirt medium does not.

Re:oxigen (3, Informative)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | about 10 months ago | (#44818671)

Aeroponics has containment issues. If you're misting water constantly, it's going to go everywhere. In fact it's probably not going to behave quite right either since the water doesn't fall - droplets can aggregate and just float around forever. So you're then looking at a complex vacuum system to keep the water moving through properly.

Much easier just to absorb it into something near the plant roots.

Re:oxigen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44819539)

Duh, they need to use a salad spinner for make artifical grav in the air ponics bay.

Seriously, it wouldn't need to spin fast, and wouldn't disorient the man-monkeys since they wouldn't need to go inside.

Re:oxigen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44820155)

So you're then looking at a complex vacuum system to keep the water moving through properly.

Like a fan?

Re:oxigen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44818603)

If you are going to need mass for radiation shielding anyways, and were going to just fill the outside of the ship with a lot of water, there might be mass budget for soil too. It would be a good placement if you were going to try to use a rotation scheme to simulate gravity. But I would be more worried about the messy nature of soil, and that it can also end up as a breeding ground for various bacteria and fungi. You could try sterilizing it, but that just means as soon as something gets into it from someplace you missed, it has no competition.

And while basil is great, I'm not sure if I would want to eat a big heaping bowl of it. A couple pots worth in a warm, humid environment ends up making more than enough for a year's supply of pesto for a small household.

Re:oxigen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44818635)

Maybe they're trying to isolate variables. Maybe also they have several reasons I can't image. Though, I suppose you're right that the NASA scientists are just fucking stupid.

Re:oxigen (1)

dywolf (2673597) | about 10 months ago | (#44819295)

ya mist droplets floating around in microgravity. thats exactly what they need on a space station ...
no.

Look, most plants simply dont even know how to grow without gravity being present, and the simplest solution is for any actual space farm to be given spin, however slight. so then, rather than using a mister/atomizer (too much energy for droplet size) you can simply run drip lines or semi-permeable hoses through a "soil" medium, for simple and efficient watering. therefore, soil, also being needful for optimum growth for most plants, would hardly be "uneccesary" mass. PLUS soil then also allows a medium for the dispoal and composting of the biowastes on board as well....oh which also just happens to benefit the space farm module by supplying fertilizer, so they dont need to bring any of that along either. soil, or an equivlent engineered product, actually makes a lot of sense.

Re:oxigen (1)

Khyber (864651) | about 10 months ago | (#44820171)

"However, it makes less than no sense to grow in a soil-like medium. They should be using aeroponics."

Not even close. The idea of fine mist floating around to get into equipment is just absolutely ball-to-the-wall stupid.

Sealed hydroponics or a solid-mat capillary action growing medium are what's called for here.

Water for plants = a real problem. Game over. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44817999)

And by the way, I'd like to see all the current Slashdot editors used
as fertilizer.

Articles like this one are proof of incompetence and idiocy of the first order.

Chi-chi-chia! (1)

mschaffer (97223) | about 10 months ago | (#44818001)

I wonder if they have tried "Chia Pets"?

Lettuce? (1)

onealone (996027) | about 10 months ago | (#44818009)

Surely of all the vegetables, lettuce is one we could do without?

Re:Lettuce? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44818139)

They should test a more calories-protein-vitamins rich vegetable. For sure lettuce has nothing nutritive. It is a vegetable use for his fibers and low content of carbohidrates. It is exactly what we do not need in space.

Re:Lettuce? (1)

Khyber (864651) | about 10 months ago | (#44820197)

"For sure lettuce has nothing nutritive."

Maybe you mean ICEBERG lettuce. Romaine, red leaf, etc. have much better nutritional densities.

Re:Lettuce? (1)

fritsd (924429) | about 10 months ago | (#44818149)

According to the Russians, it had a positive effect on the Moscow-Tin-Can-nauts' psychological well-being.
This is also mentioned of Pettit's Space Zucchini on the ISS, in TFA.

The Zarya module was launched in 1998, why did it take until 2013 for NASA to launch this VEGGIE program??? Obviously, food in space doesn't seem to have such a high priority in the ISS program.

During this six-month stay Pettit brought the space zucchini up with “two new crewmates” — broccoli and sunflower plants — as a personal project. He didn’t have fancy equipment, and only a little soil.
He gave the plants sun by shuttling them between space station windows, and grew them in a plastic bag, feeding them a liquid made from composted food scraps. The crew never tried eating the plants; Pettit jokes it would have felt like cannibalism.
“We considered them crew members,” he says. “It was delightful to have those plants around, to feel the little hairs on a leaf tickle your nose, to see that sunflower in full bloom. It changed our whole experience.”

I'm a bit shocked that it was this one astronaut's own project, and not an official mission objective.

Can any Russians reading this comment on why Roscosmos hasn't launched their "salad machine" from the IMBP?

Seriously? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44818027)

Have there seriously been no attempts to grow produce in orbit yet? I would have thought it would have been an insanely easy & cheap experiment. Just slap some tomato seeds in a small fabric bag filled with dirt, let them grow a bit and send them up into orbit in a small net enclosure to see how well they grow by one of the stations/shuttles windows.

Finally (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44818029)

Now they can grow space weed on Juniper. I could sure go for some space weed myself.

Eating space food from space farms, (1)

Goaway (82658) | about 10 months ago | (#44818063)

Gonna drink space beer at the space bar

Re:Eating space food from space farms, (2)

JustOK (667959) | about 10 months ago | (#44818135)

don't hit the alt space bar

Re:Eating space food from space farms, (2)

JustOK (667959) | about 10 months ago | (#44818169)

I drink at the space bar alot. But sometimes I step away from the keyboard and drink somewheres else.

Pay attention, dweebs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44818097)

Yet another reason no one is going anywhere. You can keep chugging Musk's musk if you want, but I wouldn't make Mars plans just yet.

Why are they using LED lights? (2)

DeathToBill (601486) | about 10 months ago | (#44818167)

It's not like they're further from the sun. So why not grow it using sunlight?

Re:Why are they using LED lights? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44818383)

Why not just use LEDs? They suffer from far less redundancy that LED lights.

Re:Why are they using LED lights? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44818397)

To test the conditions of deep space missions. That's the only time they'd need a regenerative growth system. They don't need such a system in orbit of the Earth.

Re:Why are they using LED lights? (1)

Drewdad (1738014) | about 10 months ago | (#44818651)

Where are they getting PINK LED lights? There is no wavelength of light that is pink.

Re:Why are they using LED lights? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44818773)

Plants use blue and red photons. That's why they are green.

Re:Why are they using LED lights? (1)

Ignacio (1465) | about 10 months ago | (#44819343)

You can create a pink LED by putting some fluorescent material in a blue or white LED. The problem is that some of the materials used for them are not stable, and will break down within a matter of weeks to months [candlepower.us] .

Re:Why are they using LED lights? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44818969)

For starters, because the ISS has 90 minute day/night cycles which would probably be detrimental to plants. If using LEDs you can control the cycle to best benefit the plant. Some plants actually grow much faster by tweaking the cycle (day/night lengths). I've personally been trying to figure out if it would be cost effective to grow veggies in my basement over the long dark winter in MN. Anybody have advice on this?

Also, the ISS doesn't have a greenhouse attached to it. Window space is extremely limited and non of them always face the sun.

Re:Why are they using LED lights? (1)

PraiseBob (1923958) | about 10 months ago | (#44819917)

As AC says, ISS rotates around the earth every 90 minutes. However, the orbit it maintains in relation to the sun is variable: "For the next few days, the International Space Station (ISS) will be orbiting Earth in constant sunlight, as its orbit lines up with Earth’s day-night terminator." Taken from: http://www.universetoday.com/67280/iss-will-be-in-constant-sunlight-the-next-few-days/ [universetoday.com]

Sometimes it has 24/7 sunlight, but it normally does not. Plants like conditions to simulate day and night from their region. In a sense, they have sleep cycles, similar to animals. When they have 16 hours of sunlight a day, they believe it is summer, and grow. When they have 14 hours they think it is autumn and produce veggies. During some orbits you could use window shades, and timing everything perfectly to open and shut them. If you are in an orbit that switches between sunlight and darkness for 45 minutes at a time, then your plants can probably survive. But, if you expect to feed people, then you need optimal growth conditions.

Food in Space (1)

fast turtle (1118037) | about 10 months ago | (#44818269)

sounds like a hydroponic media that is not good for root production. They'd be better off using rock wool to promote root growth and give the plants something to bind to. Rock wool is pretty easy to create, especially in space where the energy is readily available using a sinmple solar concentrator and feed the matterial through the focal point.

Another advantage of rock wool is the ability to retain a nutrient solution near the root ball to promote plant growth

just be sure (2)

digitalvendetta (1521287) | about 10 months ago | (#44818291)

To have to space soup, and not the space special.

shit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44818389)

It would be illegal to dispose of your own droppings. You *have* to save it all to fertilize the crops or you're committing a felonious space crime!

Maybe the wrong perspective (1)

SuperCharlie (1068072) | about 10 months ago | (#44818523)

Maybe Im lookin at this wrong, but it seems that you are dealing with a closed system with a leak in that there is only X amount of organic material and Y amount of energy being continually expended by at minimum the people existing (breathing, radiating heat, expending energey..etc) so it seems to be a matter of scale problem at that point..like.. how long you want this thing to go would eventually be determined by how big X is.

Guess they'll insist on animal products too.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44819035)

... because otherwise they'd have to question what they eat on earth, and we can't have that...

This is the level of insanity most people live by - just you wait - they will desperately try to implement some sort of livestock, then eggs, then milk, along with all the evil and filth they entail...

NASA, Behind the times as always (1)

Khyber (864651) | about 10 months ago | (#44819037)

" The burgundy-hued lettuce (NASA favors the 'Outredgeous' strain) will be grown under bright-pink LED lights, ready to harvest after just 28 days."

Ignoring the higher quantum yields of green light is going to be a bad mistake. Catch up with the research done not even 4 years ago, NASA. No wonder you can't get a budget when you can't even keep up with the pace of research.

No need for fertilizer (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44819067)

The soil replacement substrate they are testing (arcillite) is highly absorbent and probably is pretreated with the fertilizers. I know that similar experiments (SVET, russian ) were done on the Russion Mir station (my father was leading the team that developed the soil substrate). They used naturally occurring mineral (zeolite) which is extremely good absorbent. You can pretreat it with a fertilizer mix and it will leach small amounts of nutrients and support plant growth for years. All you need to do is add water. The zeolite is also very light - the dry stones will actually float when placed in water, until they absorb enough of it to sink. The zeolites and I assume the arcillite substrate that NASA is testing can also serve as base for soil formation. On long missions you can mix them with waste and let it rot. Because of their absorbent properties the zeolites will actually reduce the smell that comes out of the mix. I would guess that in a confined box with no external supply of fresh air, this would be quite an advantage.

Here are some references for the substrate description [google.com] and the experiment results [nih.gov] .

Bigelow Aerospace (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44819159)

This seems like a good fit for testing a Bigelow module. If Bigelow buys the farm...so to speak...it wouldn't be as bad as losing something that the inhabitants couldn't live without.

Plants in micro-gravity (1)

MarginalWatcher (1055844) | about 10 months ago | (#44819863)

OT: Are they growing them in microgravity or some sort of spin-induced inertial "gravity" close to Earth's? Just wonder what plants growing in zero-G conditions would look like...

space cash (1)

dickplaus (2461402) | about 10 months ago | (#44819899)

I better start saving up my space cash i stole from baby fark mcgee zax

Will it come from the vine... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 10 months ago | (#44820113)

already freeze-dried?

CO2 (1)

jacerie (1071646) | about 10 months ago | (#44820133)

What I'm curious about is how much they're going to have to play with the atmosphere scrubbers to provide a consistent level of CO2 for the plants to metabolize. Too little CO2 and the plants grow slowly or stunted, too much CO2 and the astronauts suffer. Finding that happy medium is going to be critical for any long-term orbital farming.
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