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NASA Planning To Grow Vegetables In Space

Update Date: Apr 15, 2014 09:21 AM EDT

SpaceX's Dragon craft is carrying a plant growth chamber called Veggie as a part of the SpaceX-3 resupply mission to the International Space Station. An experiment called 'Veg-01' will be conducted by U.S. astronauts aboard for assessing the feasibility and safety of growing vegetables in space. 

The chamber packs plants into special 'pillows' with a flat-panel light back and red, blue, and green LEDs. The veggie system provides the lighting and nutrient delivery but relies on the cabin's temperature and CO2 to facilitate plant growth, reported Venture Beat

"Veggie will provide a new resource for U.S. astronauts and researchers as we begin to develop the capabilities of growing fresh produce and other large plants on the space station," Gioia Massa, NASA payload scientist for Veggie, said in a statement, according to VB.

"Determining food safety is one of our primary goals for this validation test."

'Veggie' has been developed by Madison, Wis.-based Orbital Technologies through a small business research program. The entity collaborated with the NASA engineers to get the hardware certified for use inside the space station. The entire unite weighed around 15 pounds, said NASA. 

If the Veggie system succeeds, it would help astronauts eat fresh food more regularly. Experts said the recreational gardening may also help them feel less out of touch with the earth.

"You could also think of plants as pets," said Massa. "The crew just likes to nurture them."

While the only crops en route to space today are lettuce seedlings, NASA has already grown Swiss chard, radishes, Chinese cabbage, and peas inside Veggie's plant pillows, reported Venture Beat

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