Archinauts LXXVIII – Plants in Space

New Plant Habitat Will Increase Harvest on ISS

A new, nearly self-sufficient plant growth system by NASA is headed to the International Space Station soon and will help researchers better understand how plants grow in space. The Advanced Plant Habitat will be used to conduct plant bioscience research on the space station, and help NASA prepare crew to grow their own food in space during deep-space exploration missions.

Some of the components of this new system have arrived at NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida and are being prepared for delivery. The new plant system will join ‘Veggie’ – NASA’s first fresh food growth system already active on station.

Arabidopsis seeds, small flowering plants related to cabbage and mustard, have been growing in the prototype habitat, and will be the first plant experiment, called PH-01, grown in the chamber aboard the space station.

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“A big difference in this system, compared to Veggie, is that it requires minimal crew involvement to install the science, add water, and perform other maintenance activities,” Bryan Onate a NASA APH project manager in the Exploration Research and Technology Directorate at Kennedy said. “We are learning how plants grow in space and what levels of commodities, such as light and water, are required so we can maximise our growth with the least resources.”

The large, enclosed chamber measures 18 inches square, with two inches for the root system and 16 inches available for growth height. It is designed to support commercial and fundamental plant research or other bioscience research aboard the space station for up to a 135-day science investigation, and for at least one year of continuous operation without maintenance.

“I think that the new plant growth habitat will provide tremendous capabilities to do high quality plant physiology research with a variety of plant types on the space station,” Massa said. “The plant habitat will enable much more controlled and detailed studies of plant growth in spaceflight.”

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