Washington, March 5: NASA is planning to create a small eco-system on the International Space Station (ISS) and for that is sending a new, almost self-sufficient plant growth system to the ISS. This system will help astronauts to grow their own food during deep-space exploration missions.
This new plant system will join Veggie – NASAs first fresh food growth system already active on the ISS. NASA has also said that this Advanced Plant Habitat will also be used to conduct research regarding the plant bioscience on the space station.
This new system is a fully enclosed; closed-loop system equipped with an environmentally controlled growth chamber, said Bryan Onate, project manager at NASAs Kennedy Space Centre.
Onate also said that the system uses a broad spectrum of white LED lights along with red, blue and green LED lights. The system, which is equipped with more than 180 sensors will relay real-time information, including oxygen content, temperature and moisture levels present in the air, soil, near the plant roots, as well as at the stem and leaf level.
"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," Onate said.
The chamber measures 18 square inches. Of these 18 inches, two inches are for the root system and 16 inches have been kept free for the growth of the plant.
"A team of scientists here at Kennedy Space Centre have been developing the procedures for the first experiment using a prototype, or engineering development unit, of the plant habitat in the Space Station Processing Facility," said Howard Levine, the project scientist overseeing the development of the advanced system.
"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," said Gioia Massa, a life science project scientist and deputy project scientist.