NASA Begins Cosmic Tomato Experiments on ISS


In a weblog put up Thursday, NASA stated flight engineer Nicole Mann had begun putting in what’s referred to as the Veg-05 research on the Worldwide House Station. What’s Veg-05, you ask? 

Properly, the lengthy and sophisticated identify of the Veg-05 research is that this: The Choose-and-Eat Salad-Crop Productiveness Dietary Worth, and Acceptability to Complement the ISS Meals System investigation. 

However on the threat of oversimplification, I might name this the company’s try to develop house tomatoes. 

Mainly, the aim of Veg-05 is to develop dwarf tomato crops (they’re basically cherry tomatoes) below two totally different mild high quality remedies in house, and in a single ground-based parallel research. On Nov. 26, the mission’s treasured tomato seeds have been efficiently despatched as much as the ISS by way of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. 

As soon as tomatoes have sprouted, the crew will analyze variations in fruit yield, dietary composition and microbial ranges, or quantity of micro organism current. To be clear, that evaluation might be carried out with each scientific instruments in addition to private surveys. 

Yup, research staff members plan on actually consuming the tomatoes and ranking taste, texture, juiciness and different issues we would usually take into account when searching for do-it-yourself marinara elements. 

I do ponder whether these house tomatoes, formally dubbed the Pink Robin selection, might be extra like a plump, on-the-vine scenario, higher suited to bruschetta, or extra akin to these agency tomatoes nice for long-simmered sauces and recent salads.

Or possibly we will get each textures? Neither? For this reason we want a cosmic tomato research.

A preflight view of ‘Pink Robin’ dwarf tomatoes rising in Veggie {hardware} on the ground-based Kennedy House Heart. 

Gioia Massa

However why do we want house salad?

Briefly, it appears NASA is gearing up for a hopeful way forward for deep house, Martian, and extra-long lunar astronaut expeditions. 

I imply, Artemis I is technically already paving the way in which for moon bases, habitats and web connectivity, which can ultimately set the stage for the company’s dream of taking people to Mars. We also have a prototype “holoported” drugs idea within the works to learn deep house exploration, because of Microsoft’s HoloLens.

And the very fact of the matter is that recent meals will in the end be extra nutritious — and scrumptious — for anybody venturing into the universe’s distant embrace. It is also fairly troublesome to take Earth meals to astronauts with resupply missions, a fancy and costly choice that would not be potential in any respect for these headed on long-term journeys in the future. 

“The packaged weight loss program at present utilized by crews in low-Earth orbit works effectively and has supported an uninterrupted human presence in house since Nov. 2, 2000,” NASA wrote in an summary of the research. “Nevertheless, it depends on frequent resupply missions. Throughout a two- or three-year mission to Mars, the nutritional vitamins and high quality of packaged meals would degrade over time. Supplementation with recent, edible crops will present vital vitamins whereas additionally enhancing dietary selection.”

“Anecdotal proof,” the company continues, “additionally helps the potential for psychological advantages for astronauts, rooted within the enjoyment of consuming and caring for crops.”

With these causes in thoughts, there’s truly a complete investigation surrounding learn how to develop pure crops on the ISS. Veg-05 is just one piece of the puzzle.

An astronaut is wearing a casual blue shirt and floating in front of lettuce growing in the Veggie contraption on the ISS. The lettuce is immersed in a hot pink light.

NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough rising lettuce within the contraption, named Veggie, on the Worldwide House Station.


The facility of the tomato

NASA’s newest tomato queries are born from the Veg-04 research, which handled producing mizuna mustard leafy greens. Veg-04 adopted Veg-03, which made cabbage, kale, romaine and lettuce prototypes; and Veg-03 got here after Veg-01, which was the primary exploration of romaine. Veg-02, should you have been questioning, additionally was centered on romaine — yeah, house romaine is ready to surpass Earth romaine at this price — however that point, the leaves weren’t meant for human consumption. 

Altogether, NASA’s spacey salad endeavor is named “Veggie,” which succinctly stands for The Vegetable Manufacturing System. That is the identify of the plant development unit on the ISS, the place all of the magic occurs.

Plus, Veggie research transcend the “Veg” subcategories. As an example, there have been a number of nonedible experiments in play a number of years in the past that produced lentils, radishes and even algae. Final yr, the house station crew chowed down on house tacos, too, as a result of astronauts managed to harvest some piquant inexperienced chile. (These tacos, although, weren’t formally a part of Veggie). 


A taco on the ISS made with Hatch chile peppers.

NASA/Megan McArthur

Down the road, house crops might, fascinatingly, additionally end up to surpass the dietary worth of Earth crops. Earlier this yr, for instance, scientists introduced their blueprint for what’s referred to as transgenic lettuce, growable in outer house. 

This particular type of lettuce is much like its regular counterpart, besides it is genetically engineered to forestall bone loss, a medical complication that impacts folks in zero-gravity. Usually, astronauts must inject themselves with substances that assist ease the problem, however would not it simply be higher to eat a bone-loss-preventing salad? Maybe there will be a method in the future to switch all of Veggie’s recent elements equally, too.

Who knew salad might be so highly effective?

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