What many people don’t realize is that NASA does so much more for us than just exploring planets.

NASA research has led to the development of many things that we use in our daily lives, from aluminum foil to certain types of cancer therapies. Now, in an effort to save money when they do go into space, they may just be changing the way we grow our crops. Using grow lights, NASA is able to lighten their load a bit.

And the good news for gardeners? There are lessons and discoveries that can be applied to gardening on earth too!

NASA’s Mission: Project VEGGIE

As you can imagine, growing food while in space can be difficult – with a lack of tools, sunlight, and even, at times, oxygen, plants really don’t stand much of a chance. But in order for NASA to continue on like they are, they had to figure it out – because taking one pound of food into space costs as much as $10,000.

Space growing research is all about sustainability. It’s about how to grow more food in less space, and then how to also use space lessons for improving conditions on earth.

Over the years, NASA tried everything from flash dried food to terrariums to try to grow food, but nothing they tried worked all that well.

Now, NASA is taking on Project Veggie. They describe it as1)http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/experiments/383.html:

The Vegetable Production System (Veggie) is a deployable plant growth unit capable of producing salad-type crops to provide the crew with a palatable, nutritious, and safe source of fresh food and a tool to support relaxation and recreation. The Veggie provides lighting and nutrient delivery, but utilizes the cabin environment for temperature control and as a source of carbon dioxide to promote growth.

The method is deceptively simple: wearing sunglasses, technicians will shoot different colored lights at the growing plants, encouraging them to grow as they would in nature. In addition to the light, they are also watered regularly.

If you’re interested in growing plants indoors with grow lights, you might find some helpful information in this article on best grow lights, or this one on 5 vegetable to grow indoors. 

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Editor’s Note: we’re enthralled with the composting plant tower as an option to grow up to 50 plants in just 4 square feet of space. It’s expensive, but if you eat a lot of salad as we do, we’re estimating that it will pay for itself in just a few months of money saved in buying organic produce during winter. After that, it’s all savings.

Project Veggie and Grow Lights

Meanwhile, back to NASA, Dr. Gioia Massa, NASA’s science team leader for project Veggie, hopes that using grow lights will help lengthen the amount of time astronauts can stay in space. “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,” Massa said. 2)https://www.nasa.gov/content/veggie-plant-growth-system-activated-on-international-space-station”I think that plant systems will become important components of any long-duration exploration scenario. My hopes are that Veggie will eventually enable the crew to regularly grow and consume fresh vegetables.”

Veggies NASA is Growing in Space

So far, NASA has been able to grow some pretty yummy vegetables, including zucchini, broccoli, radishes, and lettuce aboard the International Space Station using grow lights like these.

Future hopes include the ability to experiment with different types of plants and the creation of new foods.

For now, they will just settle for something fresh.

On the next page is a short NASA video on Project Veggie that also reveals how what they’re learning is space is creating programs to be able to grow veggies in desert areas of planet earth.

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Image courtesy of NASA

Feature image via NASA.3)https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/news/meals_ready_to_eat

Next…? Growing food on Mars!

This brings to mind the movie, The Martian. Did you see it? Epic!

Project Veggie in Space Solving Growing Problems on Earth

Sometimes we have to step back from problems and gain distance from a better perspective to find a solution. NASA stepped off earth for it, and the discoveries they’ve brought back are most promising.

Feature image via NASA.4)https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/news/meals_ready_to_eat

Meanwhile, if you’re gardening in an arid area with dry growing conditions, you may enjoy this book on Amazon: Gardening with Less Water: Low-Tech, Low-Cost Techniques; Use up to 90% Less Water in Your Garden by David A. Bainbridge.

NASA Growing Food on Mars

Oh, and by the way, if you’re interested in an article on the latest  encouraging developments for space food, you can read that here on Nasa.gov.5)https://www.nasa.gov/feature/lunar-martian-greenhouses-designed-to-mimic-those-on-earth

NoelDiem_Headshot_GardensAllAuthor Bio: Noel Diem is a lover of all things nature and gardening. She grew up helping out in her neighborhood garden and working with her uncle’s cut flower design business. She also loves traveling, shopping, going on hikes, and reading.

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