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Astronauts Would Be Able to Grow Beans in Space in 2021: NASA

That will allow her to compare how the different gravitational levels affect the plants in space

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After lettuce, astronauts could grow beans in space in 2021. Pixabay

After cultivating lettuce in space three years ago, crew members aboard the International Space Station could be growing beans in 2021, new research by NASA suggests.

The beans could be planted in high-tech planters developed at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).

The planters can regulate all the water, nutrients, gas and air the plants need.

NTNU said it was collaborating with Italian and French researchers in their quest to cultivate plant-based food for long space journeys.

The food grown in space could be crucial to sustain the crew in future deep space missions.

The longest stays at the International Space Station have been six months, while people travelling to Mars will need to be prepared to stay in space for at least a year.

The European Space Agency plans to build a lunar base in 2030 as a stopover on the way to Mars. NASA plans to fly directly to the planet with a target landing date of 2030.

In the study, published in the journal Life, the researchers performed three experiments — the first two experiments determined the effect of restricted rooting- and nutrient solution volumes, and based on this a third experiment was performed to assess plant responses to various nitrate nutrient solution concentrations.

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The food grown in space could be crucial to sustain the crew in future deep space missions. Pixabay

“We found that plants can, in a way, ‘smell’ the amount of nutrients available to them. When the nitrogen concentration is very low, the plant will absorb more water and thus more nitrogen until it reaches an optimal level,” said Silje Wolff, a plant physiologist at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Space (CIRiS), which is part of NTNU Social Research.

“The plant has a mechanism that turns on when the nitrogen level is adequate. Then it adjusts both nitrogen and water absorption down,” Wolff added.

The researchers said that everything that can be tested on Earth has now been carried out.

The next step is to grow beans in space to observe the effect of no gravity on plants’ ability to transport water and absorb nutrients. Simulating the absence of gravity cannot be done on Earth.

The beans would be placed in a centrifuge to sprout and grow in the space station. The centrifuge would be rotated to create different amounts of gravity.

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“The art of getting something to grow in space can be transferred to our planet,” Wolff said.

“This is how we create a setup that produces both the microgravity conditions in the space station and the 1-g (gravity) force that exists on Earth.”

That will allow her to compare how the different gravitational levels affect the plants in space.

“The dream of every astronaut is to be able to eat fresh food – like strawberries, cherry tomatoes or anything that’s really flavorful. Someday that will certainly be possible. We envision a greenhouse with several varieties of vegetables,” Wolff said. (IANS)

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NASA: Sending Back Astronauts to Moon in 2024 Could Cost About $30 Billion

The entire project will be framed as a practice run for a future mission to Mars

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NASA, which has dubbed its current lunar programme Artemis (after Apollo's twin sister, the Greek goddess of the hunt, the wilderness and the moon), plans to send one male and one female astronaut to the moon in 2024. VOA

Returning astronauts to the moon in 2024 could cost about $30 billion, or roughly the same price tag as the Apollo 11 spaceflight when factoring in inflation, NASA has said.

“For the whole programme, to get a sustainable presence on the moon, we’re looking at between $20 and $30 billion,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a TV interview on Friday, though noting that that figure does not include money already spent on the rocket and space capsule the agency plans to use for the programme, Efe news reported.

The total cost of the Apollo programme that the US launched in 1961 and concluded in 1972 was $25 billion. The climax of that programme came nearly 50 years ago when two astronauts landed on the moon as part of the Apollo 11 mission, which cost $6 billion at the time, equivalent to $30 billion today.

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Then one male astronaut and – for the first time – a female astronaut would set foot on the lunar surface in 2024. Pixabay

NASA, which has dubbed its current lunar programme Artemis (after Apollo’s twin sister, the Greek goddess of the hunt, the wilderness and the moon), plans to send one male and one female astronaut to the moon in 2024.

Bridenstine recalled that the main difference between the Apollo programme and the Artemis program is that the former culminated with brief stays on the moon while the latter will entail a permanent human presence there.

The plan will involve the recruitment of private companies and international partners, the construction of a lunar space station and manned landings at the moon’s south pole within five years.

NASA, moon
That rocket will send into orbit a new spacecraft known as Orion, whose lead contractor is Lockheed Martin. VOA

The entire project will be framed as a practice run for a future mission to Mars. The programme includes an unmanned mission around the moon in 2020 and a manned mission that also will orbit the moon two years later. Then one male astronaut and – for the first time – a female astronaut would set foot on the lunar surface in 2024.

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The three lunar missions will be delivered into space by the Space Launch System, a rocket being developed by NASA and Boeing that will be the largest ever built once it is fully assembled. That rocket will send into orbit a new spacecraft known as Orion, whose lead contractor is Lockheed Martin.

Besides these missions exclusively handled by NASA, five other launches will be carried out to place in lunar orbit the components for construction of the Gateway mini-space station, which will serve as a staging post for moon landings. Those five missions between 2022 and 2024 will be operated by private companies, according to NASA’s plans. (IANS)