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Space jam: ISS astronauts set to taste ‘outredgeous’ food grown in space

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NASA astronaut Scott Kelly

 

Washington: In a pioneering feat that will help astronauts on long-duration space missions like Mars, the crew members on board the International Space Station (ISS) are set to eat fresh food grown in the microgravity environment of space for the first time.

Expedition 44 crew members, including NASA astronaut Scott Kelly, are ready to sample the fruits of their labor after harvesting a crop of “Outredgeous” red romaine lettuce from the “veggie plant” growth system on the orbiting laboratory.

The astronauts will clean the leafy greens with citric acid-based, food safe sanitizing wipes before consuming them.

They will eat half of the space bounty, setting aside the other half to be packaged and frozen on the station until it can be returned to Earth for scientific analysis.

Fresh foods such as tomatoes, blueberries and red lettuce are a good source of antioxidants.

“Having fresh food like these available in space could have a positive impact on people’s moods and also could provide some protection against radiation in space,” said Dr Ray Wheeler, head of advanced life support activities at NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.

NASA’s plant experiment, called Veg-01, is being used to study the in-orbit function and performance of the plant growth facility and its rooting “pillows” which contain the seeds.

The first “pillows” were activated, watered and cared for by Expedition 39 flight engineer Steve Swanson in May 2014.

After 33 days of growth, the plants were harvested and returned to Earth in October 2014.

At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the plants underwent food safety analysis.

The second “Veg-01 plant pillows” were activated by Kelly on July 8 and grew again for 33 days before being harvested.

The seeds had been on the station for 15 months before being activated.

The veggie unit features a flat panel light bank that includes red, blue and green LEDs for plant growth and crew observation.

“Using LED lights to grow plants was an idea that originated with NASA as far back as the late 1990s,” Dr Wheeler noted.

The purple/pinkish hue surrounding the plants is the result of a combination of the red and blue lights which by design emit more light than the green LEDs.

Green LEDS were added so the plants look like edible food rather than weird purple plants.

Besides the nutritional benefits, growing fresh produce in space may also provide a psychological benefit to astronauts.

The farther and longer humans go away from Earth, the greater the need to be able to grow plants for food, atmosphere recycling and psychological benefits.

“I think that plant systems will become important components of any long-duration exploration scenario,” informed Dr Gioia Massa, payload scientist for Veggie system at Kennedy.

The Veggie unit can also be used by astronauts for recreational gardening activities during deeper space missions.

(IANS)

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Soyuz Rocket’s Crew Say That They Trust The Rocket ,Post Previous Failure

Russian investigators said the rocket failure was caused by a sensor that was damaged during assembly.

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Russian Rocket, Soyuz
From left: CSA astronaut David Saint Jacques, Russian cosmonaut Оleg Kononenko‎ and U.S. astronaut Anne McClain pose in a mock-up of a Soyuz space craft at Russian Space Training Center in Star City, Russia. VOA

A U.S. astronaut said on Thursday she had full confidence in the safety of the Russian-made Soyuz rocket that will blast a three-person crew into space next month in the first such launch since a rocket failure.

Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and U.S. and Canadian astronauts Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques are due to embark for the International Space Station on Dec. 3 after a similar launch on Oct. 11 ended in an emergency landing.

Russian Rocket, Soyuz
Head of the Russian space agency Roscosmos Dmitry Rogozin addresses the media upon the arrival of Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin and U.S. astronaut Nick Hague at Baikonur airport, Kazakhstan. VOA

Two minutes into that launch, a rocket failure forced Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin and U.S. astronaut Nick Hague to abort their mission and hurtle back to Earth in a capsule that landed in the Kazakh steppe. The two were unharmed.

Speaking at a news conference in Star City near Moscow, McClain said that occasional failures were inevitable, but that the mishap with the Soyuz-FG in October had demonstrated the reliability of its emergency safety mechanisms.

“We trust our rocket. We’re ready to fly,” she said at the conference also attended by her colleagues Kononenko and Saint-Jacques.

Russian Rocket, Soyuz
A view shows the Soyuz capsule that carried U.S. astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexei Ovchinin, after it made an emergency landing, near the city of Zhezkazgan in central Kazakhstan. VOA

“A lot of people called it an accident, or an incident, or maybe want to use it as an example of it not being safe, but for us it’s exactly the opposite because our friends came home,” McClain told reporters.

Also Read: A Successful Emergency Landing For US-Russian Space Rocket

Russian investigators said the rocket failure was caused by a sensor that was damaged during assembly at the Soviet era-cosmodrome at Baikonur from where McClain, Saint Jacques and Kononenko are due to launch.

Ahead of their mission, an unmanned rocket carrying cargo is due to launch on Nov 16. in what will be the first Soyuz-FG take-off from Baikonur since the mishap. (VOA)