Growing vegetables comes naturally to many people but now astronauts have just harvested their first crop of cabbage on the International Space Station.
Nasa astronaut Peggy Whitson planted and grew Tokyo Bekana cabbage seeds as part of the Veg-03 investigation.
They have been tending the plants for the past month but Whitson harvested some of the cabbage recently, and the remainder of the crop is being saved for a scientific study back at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.
NASA says it’s important to understand how plants respond to microgravity which they see as an important step for future long-duration space missions, as crew members will be required to grow their own food.
As an extra benefit, the data from this investigation could benefit agricultural practices on Earth by designing systems that use valuable resources, such as water, more efficiently.
But this isn’t the first time astronauts have grown vegetables in space, as they also have grown lettuce and flowers in the Veggie facility on the International Space Station.
The cabbage crop was chosen after evaluating several leafy vegetables on a number of criteria, such as how well they grow and their nutritional value.
The top four candidates were sent to Nasa’s Johnson Space Centre’s Space Food Systems team, where they brought in volunteer tasters to sample the choices. The Tokyo Bekana turned out to be the most highly rated in all the taste categories according to Nasa.
This is actually the fifth crop grown aboard the station but it is the first Chinese cabbage grown there.
This facility provides lighting and necessary nutrients for plants in the form of a low-cost growth chamber and planting pillows, which deliver nutrients to the root system.
All the pillows require is a special light to help the plants grow and supports a variety of plant species that can be cultivated for fresh food as well as for experiments for educational purposes.
By Chris McCullough