International Space Station astronauts spend more time on Earth, but still need vegetables every day. In search of a viable way for the crew to grow their own vegetables during the orbit ̵
Six broccoli seeds were aboard the orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft, which was launched this week from Wallops Island, Virginia, as part of a space station mission to replenish the space station. Three of the seeds migrate into space, while the other three are coated with two different types of bacteria developed at the University of Washington, which can live in crops and improve their growth. These "beneficial" microbes, also called endophytes, can also help plants grow better in extreme low-gravity environments and lack nutrients or water.
The aim of the experiment, conducted by students at Valley Christian High School in San Jose, California, is to learn how to grow vegetables under the challenging conditions of the space station – and finally on the Moon and Mars – while exploring human space can grow. The first soil tests developed by a team of 11 students proved successful as the broccoli grew faster and was significantly larger than the control study.
"It would be ideal if we could grow plants for astronauts on the space station, or are Lunar or Mars-based, without needing to deliver pot mix or fertilizer," said Sharon Doty, a UW professor at the School of Environmental Sciences. and Forest Science and Plant Microbiologist, who isolated and characterized the microbes in this experiment. "We want to be able to grow plants with minimal effort."
Students participate in the Quest for Space program of the Quest Institute for Quality Education and are supervised by NASA's David Bubenheim. Ammes Research Center for Biosphere Sciences and John Freeman of Intrinsyx Technologies. The experiment was prepared in a flight lab at the NASA-Ames Research Center in California.
Freeman has tested many plants aboard the International Space Station and has also used these microbes to enhance the growth of crops such as tomatoes, lettuce, soybeans, wheat, corn and broccoli. Freeman has found that plants thrive even when they receive less water and essential nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus.
His work also confirms a 2016 study in which Doty and co-authors found that plant drought and other environmental stressors can better tolerate the help of natural microbes that provide nutrients to their plant partners.
These specific endophytes and broccoli plants were selected for the spaceflight experiment because they gave good results in greenhouse trials under growth conditions similar to Mars, where nitrogen and phosphorus are limited, said Freeman
while at the International Space Station a number of different vegetable cropping experiments This is the first to study natural microbes to help crops with nutrient restrictions and weightlessness, he said.
"In space, plants are very stressed and do not grow or reproduce well," said Freeman. "We want plants to grow better, we're trying broccoli because it's considered to be an anti-cancer food source, which is a good nutrient for deep-sea researchers."