Select students in agriculture classes at LeCroy Career Technical Center and Chilton County High School participated in collecting data on lettuce that will be given to Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and eventually NASA to help determine what plants will grow well in the controlled mini-greenhouse project used. The greenhouse system is similar to one on the International Space Station.
“NASA is in the process of going back to the moon … President (Donald) Trump has kind of made it a focus to get us back to the moon with the hopes of making it back to Mars,” LCTC horticulture teacher Landon Lowery said. “The astronauts right now they are having to eat freeze dried foods — very little fresh foods at all … For going to Mars, that is about a three- to five-month journey, so they are needing fresh produce to give them the ability of having nutrients. Freeze dried food loses a lot of the nutrition.”
He said NASA is also hoping to be able to add flavor to the astronauts’ diet through the fresh produce.
“The idea of sending a seed up, something that will grow really fast that they can either use on the journey to Mars or better yet once they get there and then can start growing their own food,” Lowery said.
The system is a miniature greenhouse that allows students to control the color and intensity of light and water intake in a 2 feet by 2 feet area. Variables are determined by Fairchild, so each of the classes are testing the same thing on the same week.