A plant growth chamber is on its way to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard the Dragon capsule. The technology could allow astronauts to enjoy fresh food during their time in space.
The chamber will be the beginning of an expandable plant growth facility called Veggie that will include "plant pillows," a NASA news release reported.
The project will focus on "Outredgeous" lettuce seeds.
"Veggie will provide a new resource for U.S. astronauts and researchers as we begin to develop the capabilities of growing fresh produce and other large plants on the space station," Gioia Massa, NASA payload scientist for Veggie, said in the news release. "Determining food safety is one of our primary goals for this validation test."
The low cost chamber employs a flat-panel light bank including red, blue and green LEDs for plant growth. It can accommodate up to a foot and a half of plant growth.
"The internal growing area is 11.5 inches wide by 14.5 inches deep, making it the largest plant growth chamber for space to date," Massa said.
The plant chamber was altered to accommodate the limited space aboard the ISS. During the prototype testing phase at Kennedy's Space Life Sciences Laboratory researchers successfully grew a crop of lettuce and radishes.
""I am thrilled to be a member of the Veggie and Veg-01 team and proud of all the work we have done to prepare for flight," Massa said. "Our team is very excited to see the hardware in use on the space station."
The researcher hopes the technology will be able to be used for astronaut consumption in the near future. It could also be used for recreational gardening aboard the ISS during long space missions.
"The system may have implications for improving growth and biomass production on Earth, thus benefiting the average citizen," the news release reported.