Astronauts on long space voyages would probably get pretty tired of freeze-dried meals, so scientists have long been trying to figure out how to grow space food to supplement their diets. According to researchers at Purdue University, strawberries may be one space-friendly crop. They say a low-maintenance strawberry cultivar called Seascape would do pretty well in space. It produces fewer berries than other cultivars, but they're bigger and just as tasty.
Growing plants in space comes with several challenges, not the least of which is providing artificial light. Artificial-sunlight lamps need lots of power, and they generate heat, too, so a spacecraft or space base would need enough power to cool things down. There are no winds or insects to pollinate the plants, which is especially problematic for flowering fruits like tomatoes and strawberries. Roots grow differently in low-gravity environments. And water is a precious commodity, so space crops must do well with small amounts.
NASA has been studying the problem for years, but scientists are still weeding out plant varieties to find the best ones.
When space shuttle Discovery landed April 20, it brought back specimens of Arabidopsis thaliana plants that had been growing on the International Space Station. It will take about a year to determine how microgravity affected the plants' growth, and how well they handled the stress of spaceflight.
The results should illuminate some problems with growing crops in space -- but at least one problem, limited light, shouldn't be an issue with the Seascape strawberry.
The plants can produce strawberries with as little as 10 hours of light a day, and they produce fewer but bigger berries, meaning less work for the astronauts who would have to hand-pollinate and harvest them. The plants kept producing fruit for about six months after starting to flower, according to the study, published early online in the journal Advances in Space Research.
The first space farm would probably consist of produce like lettuce, radishes and tomatoes. Sweet strawberries would be a welcome addition, the researchers say. They could satisfy an astronaut's sweet tooth better than freeze-dried snacks.
The next step is to test Seascape bushes using LED lighting, hydroponics and different temperatures, the researchers say.
1) Until you have means for processing human waste back into hydro-solution or soil-base, then growing things in space will never be more efficient than hauling calories up.
2) Strawberries in this fashion would be very time consuming and labor intensive for a plant that is only 50% edible (fruits and greens). Lettus makes more sense, as it is 100% nutrative (even the roots) and if loose leafed, can provide freash nutrament and Vit A throughout its entire lifespan.
3) Waste heat is easily vented in space - as space tends to be a rather chilly place (so long as you are chillin on the dark side. If in the light, positioning solar collectors both to generate power and shade the station becomes a win-win.
4) Have they considered "Bees in Space" - for later on, when food production is worth of its own modular? Any enclosed greenhouse can usually support a small apiary, solvoing both pollination as well as the "sweet tooth" issue.
I would love to see if a bee could fly in micro gravity. And the miniturized astronaut suit would be adoreable.
The above story is one more reason why we need to keep the space station operating as far into the future as possible.
Oak, I know they had moths in space, but I never heard the results of the test. I would imagine it's similar, but I know bees have complex flight dances for mating, that may complicate things.
And yeah, heat can be pumped out into space easily enough I would imagine.
lol thats a great idea! "Beeeeees in Spaaaaaaaaace!"
In all serious-ness though, we need to solve this problem
because taking enough food & water to supply even a short trip to Mars and back would require a increase in the ships size. Plus, it would then require more fuel, thus adding to the ship size.
If they can grow it, it would help reduce the payload considerably.
Heat isn't vented into space as easily as you might think. Space has no medium so you cant transfer the heat via convection or conduction. You would loose heat in the form of infrared radiation but that is a much much slower process then the other 2 methods.
How would growing the food reduce the payload? isn't vegetable matter made from the nutrients in the soil, air and water? Wouldn't it just be the same weight/volume of stuff in a different form? I mean strawberrys don't just come from nowhere...or do they?
"Freeze-dried foods have long been enjoyed by U.S. Astronauts on space exploration missions"? What are they trying to sell to little kids? I wouldn't enjoy eating dried, shriveled strawberries.
Exactly Michael Taylor, wasn't it a popsci article that said that if your facemask broke in space your face wouldn't instantly freeze like the movies show. there would be other horrible things but you wouldn't freeze. Due to no medium to transfer all your body's energy away. So in order to loose all that heat during spaceflight you'd have to eject warm air which I dont think they want to do.
As for the strawberries nutrient source, they would be using hydroponics. Its much more efficient and practical for a project like this. And if they can get good enough at recycling their waste none of the nutrients will ever go to waste.
One question I'd have is would the power useage required to power the grow lights be cancelled out by the reduced power needed to scrub the CO2? I don't know what the power efficiency of those are but with the natural carbon cycle created by the flora on board it should help.
That is a fantastic photo! Do I need to go into low earth orbit for a strawberry like that? Or is it 'photoshoped'? :)
well maybe they should grow celery you can eat it raw you can use all of it and it is looks very simple to me and the bee idea could work there is a species of bee that do not have stingers they could use and that could equal honey which means celery smothered with honey and raisins.
I think that NASA should, when missions resume, apoint a agricultureal manager for each flight. There they can solve the proplem of not being able to farm in space, much like flight managers already do. They set up satellites during the misssion, so why can't NASA scrounge up enough cash to hire a BOTANIST IN SPAAAACCE!!!!
hey two birds in one stone! that idea can also support life systems, and give food to astronauts. but they do need to train a plant specialist to go up in space to study the effects in space, which makes me wonder why not set up something on the moon much easier sounding than a floating space station and many challenges would become simpler
i still dont get why we cant go back to them moon. we did it in 1969 before super computers and the internet and solar cells. if we did in 40 years ago we have the teck to go there everyday. that makes me wonder did we actually land people on the moon? well i guess we will ethier find out in 2012 for the x prize or in 2019 when china goes