The Growing Beyond Earth project is a collaboration between the US space agency, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria and La Trobe University.
So far, it’s being undertaken by pupils at Melbourne Archdiocese of Catholic Schools.
“Currently, astronauts on the International Space Station rely on a pre-packaged diet that is frequently resupplied,” said La Trobe lecturer.
“But in the long term, space gardens providing fresh, edible plants will be essential to maintain astronaut health and wellbeing.
“For Growing Beyond Earth, students build the growth habitat inside a box roughly the size of a large microwave fitted with LED lights and sensors.
“Then they plant the seeds of a leafy green called misome, which grows reliably and quickly – both on and off-Earth.
“The students gain valuable experience in running their own experiments, including planting the seeds in pots and using growth media that match the NASA Vegetable Production System.
“They monitor growth and water use, making notes about plant size, colour and fitness. Students learn what plants need, how fast they can grow, what can be recycled and how much can be harvested.”
Students also had the option to take part in a second experiment to test other plant types, with pak choi, cress, and kale found suitable.
NASA says experiments are currently in progress in more than 400 middle and high schools across the US.
“GBE provides a steady stream of valuable data to NASA scientists who are developing technologies for growing food crops for long-duration missions into deep space,” adds NASA on its website.
“In the project’s seventh year, more than 40,000 middle and high school students and their teachers nationwide have contributed hundreds of thousands of data points and tested 180 varieties of edible plants for NASA.”
Adam is a journalist who has worked for more than 40 prestigious media brands in the UK and Australia. Since 2005, his varied career has included stints as a reporter, copy editor, feature writer and editor for publications as diverse as Fleet Street newspaper The Sunday Times, fashion bible Jones, media and marketing website Mumbrella as well as lifestyle magazines such as GQ, Woman’s Weekly, Men’s Health and Loaded. He joined Momentum Media in early 2020 and currently writes for Australian Aviation and World of Aviation.
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