In 2021, the world looked on as NASA grew the first crop of chilli peppers in space, in the Advanced Plant Habitat (APH) on the International Space Station. The APH is a high-tech growing system and has allowed a giant leap forward in space cultivation. However, it’s not ready to grow food on the Moon or Mars.
“The APH uses a watering system that’s not sustainable for crop production right now. But it’s good enough for conducting space biology experiments," said Oscar Monje, APH engineer and Kennedy Space Center research scientist.
NASA isn’t the only space agency tackling the problem of growing food in space. For example, JAXA, the Japanese space agency, is researching how to set up farms on the Moon and produce food to enable long-term stays with reduced supply from the Earth. One of their goals is to downsize cultivation systems to limit the mass that has to launch from Earth.
One of the ideas they’re developing is a new plastic culture bag technology. JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide ran the first space experiment for the system over 48 days, from 27th August to 13th October 2021. The system grows plants in small, closed plastic bags to prevent bacterial contamination and seal in any smells. Up to three bags are then grown in a cultivation device. Measuring 44 (w) x 35 (d) x 20 (h) cm and weighing just 5 kg, it was designed to be compact and lightweight. The system takes water from the ISS supply to create a nutrient solution and is equipped with cameras to monitor plant growth.
Read the complete article at www.theunconventionalgardener.com.