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Tupperware helps NASA grow fresh vegetables in space



  NASA Tupperware
From NASA [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons

For decades, airtight plastic containers have been synonymous with the freshness of baked goods and leftovers. Now, a manufacturer of iconic household plastics is helping to provide fresh food in space.

As the agency plans future missions into space, the nutrient thrust of fresh foods and the psychological benefits of growing plants are becoming increasingly important. Since 201

5, NASA astronauts have supplemented their space diet with fresh vegetables grown in the veggie vegetable production system on the International Space Station.

One of Veggie's challenges in space was to properly water her. Tupperware Brands Corporation has made its design know-how available for developing a new approach to watering plants in space.

With the Veggie system, astronauts have to use a syringe to push water into each plant pillow. In earlier cultures grown with cushions in the Veggie system, some plants were better than others because not all plants received the same amounts of water and oxygen.

"The primary goal of this newly developed plant breeding system, the passive orbital nutrient supply system, or PONDS, is to achieve consistent plant growth," said Nicole Dufour, project director for vegetables at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

NASA researcher Howard Levine originally designed and prototyped PONDS, but in early 2017 transferred it to Techshot, a private space services company, to further develop and certify the demonstration unit for orbital use. In return, Techshot turned to Tupperware to develop the new system that would provide an alternative to the plant cushions.

"PONDS units have properties that mitigate microgravity effects on water distribution, increase oxygen availability, and provide ample space. The new PONDS system requires less crew maintenance and uses absorbent mats that utilize the basic principles of surface tension and capillary action Sucking water through a reservoir system into seeds and roots This approach passively disperses water evenly through each plant cylinder contained in the PONDS reservoirs, allowing consistent germination and seedling development into mature plants.

"It was great Tupperware collaborates closely with the talented teams of NASA engineers, designers and scientists on the project, "said Dave Reed, Techshot's PONDS project manager and head of the company's launch activities." Tupperware brings a wealth of innovative design and knowledge to Kunststo Get involved in this project. "

The upcoming SpaceX CRS-14 commercial mission will include seven PONDS modules plus an adapter plate to allow the modules to be installed in the Veggie system. Included are four black opaque modules that will grow for about a month Oredredgeous red romaine lettuce – the same salad that was previously grown in the veggie plant. Two enveloped modules each contain a clear window and a removable cover that allows astronauts to directly observe the root growth of the same Romaine lettuce and assess the water distribution in the hydroponics reservoir. A clear module is used to perform tests and video recordings to characterize the microgravity hydrodynamics of the reservoir.

Six more PONDS modules are due to launch this commercial year on a commercial orbital ATK mission and be sown with Mizuna mustard. Both the lettuce and the mustard have already been grown in plant cushions as part of previous veggie experiments, so that the data of the plant cushion and the PONDS growth are compared.

Kennedy is a leader in plant research ever on the station, with two veggie units, the Advanced Plant Habitat, which has just completed its first growth test, new BRIC LED lighting, which now provides lighting for photosynthesis and the genetic Expression of organisms in space with the upcoming Spectrum experiment is testing year.


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