If astronauts are going to do multi-year missions or establish a sustainable presence on the Moon and Mars, they will need fresh food and medical supplies, which are really not easy. easily obtained from extraterrestrials. Download the latest supplies heading to the ISS including some new optionsincluding yogurt production and some potentially delicious space tomatoes.
Tomatoes (see above) are just the latest stage in a lengthy space station experiment of growing edible plants in microgravity and artificial light. But while the last few years work has focused on green leafy vegetables like spinach and herbs, vegetarian-05 will look at how a juicy payload like a dwarf tomato grows in this unusual garden environment.
The mission will examine “light and fertilizer quality for fruit production, microbial food safety, nutritional value, crew acceptability of taste, and behavioral health benefits.” the totality of having plants and fresh food in space.” It was essential to dial in the parameters of light and nutrient flow, so they are offering different combinations of conditions, including different combinations of LEDs, to see which produces these effects. The best tomato fruit in the growing period of 104 days.
Like gardening on the ground, this is a rather sensitive test for the ISS crew. “Crew members tend to plants by opening wicks to help seedlings grow, providing water, thinning seedlings, pollination, and monitoring health and progress,” the description reads. Of course, in the end, they’ll eat at least some of them, which can be a bittersweet moment after growing the plants from sprouting.
It’s also not the only garden on the ISS. October resupply mission launched Plant Habitat-03, an experiment looking at epigenetic effects on plants in microgravity. Changes in the environment can create changes in how and which genes are expressed, and of course living in orbit is a significant change in the environment.
We know that these changes occur in space, but we don’t know if the changes are heritable or if certain strains or mutations will produce plant-friendly variants. longer after these epigenetic changes have occurred. This study takes seeds generated in space and compares plants that grow from them with seeds generated on the surface. With luck, we might find some special microgravity adaptations that allow plants to thrive in these unusual conditions.
Some vitamins and minerals are also fresher. And an interesting approach to making them on demand is to use beneficial bacteria such as those found in foods in the form of yogurt. BioNutrients-2 is the second phase of the effort to create a shelf-stable pre-yogurt mix that, when hydrated, naturally produces a target nutrient.
Today’s ISS flight experiment has three potential hosts: “yogurt, another fermented dairy product called kefir, and a yeast-based beverage. Each of these is designed to deliver specific nutritional products.”
Bacteria and yeasts are often modified for a variety of purposes; a common type is for bioreactors, in which organisms produce a certain molecule as part of their normal biological process – such as a sugar such as glucose, but also have more complex molecules like drugs. But whether and how to do this efficiently and easily in space, for humans, is an open question that this experiment aims to shed some light on.
However, that lovely green color will disappear – it’s a pH indicator and it will eventually turn yogurt color.
In addition to food and growing things, there are a lot of interesting medical experiments going on there from these latest resupply missions. Microgravity has many interesting and sometimes harmful effects on the human body, and not only that, it affects what treatments are available and how effective they are. What if a certain drug only works in gravity for some reason? You would hate to have to figure that out halfway through Mars.
So we have a new biofabrication test, seeing if human tissue can be efficiently (perhaps more efficiently!) cultured and printed in microgravity; one “Moon Microscope” meant for quick, simple diagnosis in extraterrestrial conditions; The “falcon glasses” capture detailed images of the user’s eyes to see how microgravity can affect the way they work and adapt; and several other projects from different research institutions looking at how different treatments or devices work in orbit.
You can watch the premiere live here after around 1pm Pacific Time.