Space

ISS-grown "space lettuce" is just as good as its Earthly counterparts

ISS-grown "space lettuce" is j...
Astronaut Steve Swanson harvests some of the crop in June 2014
Astronaut Steve Swanson harvests some of the crop in June 2014
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Astronaut Steve Swanson harvests some of the crop in June 2014
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Astronaut Steve Swanson harvests some of the crop in June 2014
Astronauts Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren taste the lettuce grown onboard the ISS in August 2014
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Astronauts Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren taste the lettuce grown onboard the ISS in August 2014
Astronaut Shane Kimbrough in front of the Veggie chamber on the ISS in November 2016
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Astronaut Shane Kimbrough in front of the Veggie chamber on the ISS in November 2016
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A few years ago, for the first time ever, astronauts ate lettuce that had been grown aboard the International Space Station (ISS). It has now been determined that the "space lettuce" was at least as nutritious as similar plants grown on Earth.

The "Outredgeous" red romaine lettuce plants were grown on the ISS over 33- to 56-day periods, between 2014 and 2016, in NASA's Vegetable Production Systems ("Veggie") zero-gravity greenhouse chamber. Among other things, that setup incorporates LED grow lights and an automated watering system.

While the group of three astronauts consumed a few leaves each, the rest of the crop was frozen for subsequent transport back to Earth. There, it was chemically and biologically analyzed by scientists at the Kennedy Space Center, who compared it to Outredgeous romaine that had been grown in the center's laboratories over the same time periods. That "Earth lettuce" was raised under conditions matching those in the Veggie chamber, including the temperature, carbon dioxide levels, and humidity.

Astronaut Shane Kimbrough in front of the Veggie chamber on the ISS in November 2016
Astronaut Shane Kimbrough in front of the Veggie chamber on the ISS in November 2016

Overall, the Earth and ISS plants were found to be quite similar in composition. In some cases, however, the space lettuce was actually richer in elements such as potassium, sodium, phosphorus, sulphur and zinc. It also contained higher levels of phenolics, which are molecules that have been shown to possess antiviral, anticancer and anti-inflammatory qualities.

Interestingly, the diversity and identity of microbes inhabiting the plants was similar for both groups – it had been assumed that the ISS lettuce would contain fewer types of organisms. And importantly, no harmful bacteria (such as E. coli or Salmonella) were found on any of the plants.

Based on these and other findings, the space lettuce was therefore declared good (and safe) to eat.

Astronauts Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren taste the lettuce grown onboard the ISS in August 2014
Astronauts Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren taste the lettuce grown onboard the ISS in August 2014

"The International Space Station is serving as a test bed for future long-duration missions, and these types of crop growth tests are helping to expand the suite of candidates that can be effectively grown in microgravity," says the Kennedy Space Center's Dr. Gioia Massa, co-author of a paper on the research. "Future tests will study other types of leafy crops as well as small fruits like pepper and tomatoes, to help provide supplemental fresh produce for the astronaut diet."

The paper was recently published in the journal Frontiers in Plant Science.

Source: Frontiers via EurekAlert

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1 comment
mediabeing
...Just as good as earth lettuce...and costs only a thousand times more!