Fresh veggies are essential to a healthy, well-balanced diet, but those who spend a large chunk of their time in space don't have access to gardens and fresh food — that is, until now. NASA has made great strides in learning how to grow plants in microgravity, which is important for future long-term missions to Mars. While scientists and astronauts don't know all the answers to growing a successful garden in space yet, they've learned a lot about what not to do through trial and error, and this has helped them get closer to reaching their gardening goal.
Why gardening in space is important
"Plants can indeed enhance long duration missions in isolated, confined and extreme environments — environments that are artificial and deprived of nature," says Alexandra Whitmire, deputy element scientist for the Behavioral Health and Performance element in the NASA Human Research Program, in an article on space plants recently shared by NASA. Growing plants in space has also shown to provide psychological benefits, which is important for crews traveling for longer time periods and farther away from Earth.
The Setbacks and Successes Scientists Have Experienced So Far
From mold to drought, NASA's astronauts have experienced a series of misfortunes in regard to their gardens. While these initial setbacks seem like failures, however, it's issues like mold that help scientists better understand how plants grow in microgravity. And it's not as though the astronauts haven't seen their fair share of success, too. Last July, NASA astronaut Scott Kelly was able to grow healthy lettuce that the rest of the team munched just one month later.
Space Gardening and You
While gardening in space doesn't impact your daily life in any way, it does highlight how plants can thrive in a variety of environments. For example, if you live in a city or apartment and don't have much space to grow plants outside, you can easily bring your garden indoors and grow vegetables all year. Homestead Garden's Modern Homesteading Department in Davidsonville offers all the equipment you need to get started.