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Nasa To Start Growing Lettuce To Eat In Space From December

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Sahara Desert visible through the windows of the cupola on the ISS Tranquility module
Sahara Desert visible through the windows of the cupola on the ISS Tranquility module

Nasa is about to start farming lettuce in space.

From December the American space agency will start producing its own, home-grown vegetables aboard the International Space Station.

The American space agency said that the new equipment will mark the first time that food will be grown for human consumption in orbit.

Modern Farmer reports that the six Romaine lettuce plants will be grown under pink LED lamps and will take about a month to be ready for eating.

"The Vegetable Production System (Veggie) is a deployable plant growth unit capable of producing salad-type crops to provide the crew with a palatable, nutritious, and safe source of fresh food and a tool to support relaxation and recreation. The Veggie provides lighting and nutrient delivery, but utilizes the cabin environment for temperature control and as a source of carbon dioxide to promote growth."

Due to concerns that the lettuce might pick up strange or unknown microbes from the unusual growing conditions, it will be heavily tested before being eaten. But if all goes well it should prove quite tasty - Nasa says that growing in zero gravity doesn't necessarily mean it will look (or taste) any different than it does on Earth.

The program is the start of a feasibility study into whether food could be grown in space on a larger scale. It costs about $10,000 to carry a single pound of food into space from Earth - largely due to fuel - so any sustainable way that can be found for astronauts to grow their own would be hugely beneficial.

Clearly we aren't there yet, however.

"At this point, the break-even cost is far too high for serious bioregenerative agriculture," said Nasa's Howard Levine, project scientist for the ISS.

"Six heads of lettuce make a nice supplement to the crew's diet, but isn't going to feed them for the long-term."

You can read more about Veggie at their website, here. But the Modern Farmer story really is worth reading and has great pictures.

Also on The Huffington Post

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