By Elton Gomes
In a significant breakthrough, NASA has documented the first growth in its newly installed Advanced Plant Habitat (APH) on Wednesday. The APH was installed at the international space station (ISS) in 2017, and this growth of dwarf wheat and Arabidopsis (a type of flowering rockcress) marks its first harvest.
Here’s what happened
Joe Acaba, a NASA astronaut, prepped the grower in the APH by inserting seeds in February 2017. Thereafter, the crops were looked after by an automated, closed-loop system known as the Plant Habitat Avionics Real-Time Manager or PHARMER.
PHARMER then continued to collect data from 180 sensors that were assessing conditions such as temperature, humidity, light, and visual imagery.
The habitat is designed to test “which growth conditions plants prefer in space and provides specimens a larger root and shoot area.” By doing so, scientists will now gauge which crops can be grown aboard the space station.
The APH is a recent addition to the ISS and is roughly the size of a mini-fridge. The crew at the station had to add water to the chamber and change atmospheric elements such as ethylene scrubber, carbon dioxide scrubber & bottles, and filters.
Why you should care
Bryan Onate, APH’s project manager said, “Not only can we grow small plants, but we will be able to grow seed to seed.” This signifies a significant breakthrough in space agriculture as it means that several plants can be grown through one seed brought from the Earth.
“If we can get seeds that are viable in space and grow multiple generations from that one seed, that’s a new capability,” Onate said. “We’ve tried to create a little Mother Earth.”An image of the Advanced Plant Habitat being sent to space. Credit: Twitter/@SpaceflightIns
Growing plants on board will help NASA as it will help reduce the amount of food that must be carried for long-duration missions in space.
In addition too this, astronauts might just get to see a variety in terms of food choices. Even though the astronauts seem to enjoy their diet, fresh produce will be a welcomed change. Furthermore, it has been reported that the activity of caring for plants and watching them grow gives scientists some joy in their daily routine.
Scientists have managed to grow vegetables without sunlight or soil. NASA’s ability to grow plants in space is an achievement for agriculturalists, environmentalists and scientists.
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