WASHINGTON: Astronauts will now turn into cosmic gardeners and grow lettuce in space as Nasa is all set to send the largest ever plant growth chamber to the International Space Station (ISS).
The US space agency will launch the Vegetable Production System (VEGGIE) aboard SpaceX’s Dragon capsule on Monday.
The plant growth chamber will grow lettuce inside prototype flight pillows that will help the plants withstand zero gravity, ‘The Verge’ reported.
Red, blue, and green light emitting diodes (LEDs) will help sustain the vegetables, and the plant chamber itself can grow to 11.5 inches wide and 14.5 inches deep, Nasa said.
This will be “the largest plant growth chamber for space to date,” according to Nasa payload scientist Gioia Massa.
The project was originally slated to launch late last year, but faced delays meant to ensure all safety precautions were taken, the report said.
It is now hoped that the chamber will eventually be used to grow a wider variety of vegetables, and even be used for recreational gardening, the report said.
The chamber may even be used for more ambitious projects, like providing food for the average person back on Earth.
After extensive testing on weightless horticulture, Nasa is confident the lack of gravity will not impede growth.
However, space-borne microbes that may develop during growth are a cause of concern.
Therefore, the lettuce will undergo extensive testing before astronauts chow down.
In case the programme is a success, it could be easily scaled up to provide a lasting supplement to the ISS food supply.