According to NASA, astronauts at the International Space Station harvested a zero-gravity radish crop for the first time. They will not eat it for now. Instead, it will be sent to Earth for research. This should help astronauts in the future exploration of the Moon and Mars.
It was astronaut Kate Rubins who reaped the first crop on November 30. She wrapped each of the 20 plants in foil and placed them in a cold environment. Subsequently, they will be taken to Earth for research.
The experiment is called Plant Habitat-02 (PH-02). During this experiment, NASA grew radishes in the orbit of our planet for the first time. This plant was chosen because it is well studied by scientists and reaches maturity in just 27 days. Radish is also edible, nutritious, and genetically similar to Arabidopsis, a small flowering plant, a relative of cabbage, that scientists often study in microgravity. Earlier, astronauts successfully cultivated only dwarf wheat on the ISS.
“Radishes are a different kind of crop compared to leafy greens that astronauts previously grew on the space station, or dwarf wheat which was the first crop grown in the APH,” said Nicole Dufour, NASA APH program manager at Kennedy Space Center. “Growing a range of crops helps us determine which plants thrive in microgravity and offer the best variety and nutritional balance for astronauts on long-duration missions.”
The experiment will allow NASA to determine the optimal balance of care and nutrition for radishes in zero gravity. It is noted that the plant practically did not require maintenance from the crew.
This experiment is important because NASA plans to explore the Moon and Mars and knows that astronauts will need to grow their own food to support long missions far from home.