Growing food in space

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Growing food in space

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Did you know that food is grown in space and a hermetic biosphere is launched into space, in which green plants grow independently, even without human intervention. Let's go back a little to the past times.

In 1946, for the first time, people raised plant seeds several hundred meters above Earth to see how the seeds behave in unusual conditions. And gradually, when space technologies began to develop: people flew to the moon and plan a flight to Mars - one of the most important tasks of mankind was growing food in space and on other planets. Then people sent about 500 tree seeds to the moon, and after return restored these seeds on Earth. It turned out that the seeds grew up beautifully. There was a feeling that, in principle, something could be grown in space, and that this was not a completely stupid idea. The seeds can adapt to space conditions in special greenhouses.

In 1982, the first microgreenhouse Fiton-3 flew into space with the participation of Russian scientists. All this was the beginning of large-scale research in the field of space crop production. Then they launched a second greenhouse into space called SVET. A large number of different species were tested, the seeds germinated, the experiments were carried out. And by the end of the 90s, there was a clear feeling that it was possible to grow plants in space, but a problem arose, since the process of growing plants itself was difficult and not automated.

How can we optimize energy costs, simplify and automate plant cultivation? Taking into account the planned long-term flights to neighboring planets, growing plants in space acquires not only the function of producing food, but also the function of rest and recreation for the crew members of the spacecraft. Here is such a plantation - a space green farm is planned to be made on Mars, the plants will be grown in a semi-automatic mode in it, people will eat fresh vegetables and herbs.

In 2015, the world's first space semi-automatic greenhouse appeared - the Veggie vegetable production system.

Inside the space station, astronauts have already been able to grow crops on Veggie. In this greenhouse, layers are installed that simulate soil and make it possible to water with syringes.

2017 marked a new milestone in the development of agriculture in space - the first automated greenhouses, Advanced Plant Habitat, appeared. It is a fully enclosed, closed-loop plant life support system with an environmentally controlled growth chamber. This is essentially like precision farming, where robots check the moisture level and the well-being of the plants in order to act on the field in a targeted manner for a larger crop. The International Space Station has managed to grow a lot of greenery. Delicious vegetable salad! These greens were grown not only for dinner, but as an experiment. At the final stage, flowers were grown - zinnias. These flowers are the prototypes of more complex crops that go through the flowering stage when grow.

In 2019, scientists dared to test a new idea! Hermetic biosphere. Will it be able to exist and develop in space? Imagine a sealed aquarium that maintains the specified conditions and creates its own atmosphere for living organisms. This idea was tested on the example of the Chinese biosphere-box - the cillaboration of 27 universities created and sent a capsule ecosystem to the moon, consisting of cotton seeds, potatoes, rapeseed, also the added yeast and eggs of flies there. When the temperature was brought to 24 degrees Celsius, the ecosystem had to start living and developing. Each element of the system interacts with the rest - a cycle of oxygen, carbon dioxide, etc. is created. The experiment was supposed to last 100 days, but it had to be stopped after 10 days, as the moonlit night came and it was not possible to maintain the required temperature. Despite the fact that the experiment could not be extended, even in 10 days it was possible to collect valuable data, which showed that the seeds of all crops germinated and the development of the ecosystem corresponded to the model concepts.

This is now the cutting edge of agrarian space science, it is planned to continue to create automated agro-space complexes and test hermetic agro-ecosystems. There is every reason to believe that when Elon Musk provide a Mars mission, then the crew members will have their own space garden both in flight and upon arrival on new planets.

Let us know in the comments if you would like to try plant products grown in space, salad from the Moon and tomatoes from Mars?