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Gardening doesn't need to be a hobby just here on Earth. In fact, it might help life outside of Earth quite a bit to take that pastime to the stars.

Hosted By: Caitlin Hofmeister
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Space Grown Vegetables

Can We Grow Plants On The Moon?

Keeping the Fungus Among Us In Space

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If we want to live on other plantets one day, we're going to have to master intergalactic gardening.

But it's not as far fetched as it might first sound. In fact, we're already making progress toward that goal.

In 2015, humans ate food grown in space for the first time, and it was exciting that Hank reported on it in a news video. Here is what the space food tasted like.

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Astronauts get to do a lot of unusual things like go to space, and orbit Earth at 21,000 Kilometers per hour. And on August 10th, 3 of the international space station's crew did something even less typical. They ate space grown vegetables. This isn't the first time food's been grown in space, the Russian space station Mir had its own greenhouse and everything.

But, this is the first time orbiting astronauts have eaten it.  It was the type of red romaine lettuce called "Outredgeous". Which according to astrnaut Scott Kelly, "Tasted kinda like arugula".  But growing plants in orbit is tricky.
For one thing you have to make sure that the water and soil don't float away but you also need teach the plant which way is up because it isn't getting its usual cues. lIke the pull of gravity. 
So the lettuce was planted in what are known as Plant Pillows. Basically, bags of soil with wicks in them. The bags kept the soil in place and the wicks guided the water into the soil. Then the seeds were carfully attached to the wicks so that their root growing side was facing the soil. 
The other shoot growing side of the seed faced a panel of red and blue lights, since those are the colors plants use to grow. 
And grow they did!
The first batch was planted in May of 2014 and harvested after 33 days. 
It looked like perfectly normal red lettuce, but NASA wasn't taking any chances with unexpected space-growing side effects so, that crop was frozen and sent back to Earth for analysis. 
It seemed fine, so the second batch was planted last month in July, and it was also allowed to grow for 33 days. And then,the astronauts harvested it. 
They froze half the crop which would be sent back to Earth for more testing. 
The other half though, they got to eat. Though they had to wipe down the leaves with citric acid first. So they probably tasted a little more lemony than your standard Earth grown lettuce.

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Researchers are hoping that learning how to grow plants on the ISS will help us grow plants in extreme environments here on Earth, like where there's very little water available. Plus, growing food could be useful for long-term missions, like to Mars, since they'd have to carry less of the freeze-dried stuff. Meanwhile, the researchers point out there might be psychological benefits for the crew, both from taking care of the growing plants, and from having fresh food around. In other words, space farming could just make astronauts happier. While lettuce sometimes makes up the bulk of a salad, it's not exactly a balanced meal on its own. So, we've diversified the plants we can grow in space since 2015. Here's Reed, with the description of that bountiful space harvest. If we ever want to get to the point where we're living it up in space colonies, then we've got a few big hurdles to overcome. One of the big ones is figuring out what we're going to eat. After all, we can't live off pre-packaged, freeze-dried food forever, and calling in a several-thousand-kilogram takeout order to Mars isn't exactly cheap, either. So, since the 1980s, scientists have been studying how to grow plants in space, with the hope that one day we can grow them on a moon, or even a Martian colony. But despite what certain movies might suggest, growing plants on another planet, or even somewhere closer to home, is trickier than you might imagine. If we can solve the space botany puzzle, future astronauts could benefit not just from a consistent food supply, but all sorts of plant-y goodness! Plants could also supply materials like fibers or beneficial chemicals. They might also circulate air or recycle water. Or, they could just be there to bring a bit of brightness and cheer to a pretty grey and machine-filled environment. I mean, look at how many houseplants we all bought during the pandemic. One of the first plants astronauts managed to grow in space is Arabidopsis - a cousin to cabbages and radishes, and part of the mustard plant family. It's a favored model for studying the plant world, because its relatively small genome and fast life cycle make it easy to work with.

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