Tomatoes harvested in space to return to Earth
After a successful NASA study examining the possibility of fresh food for future astronauts, tomatoes grown on the International Space Station (ISS) will return to Earth over the weekend.
On April 15, samples from a NASA mission using SpaceX's commercial resupply services will return from the International Space Station, as reported by Metro News.
The scientific samples will be transported to NASA's Kennedy Space Centre in Florida after splashdown so that researchers can undertake additional analyses there before the full effects of gravity begin to manifest.
In addition to the pre-packaged crew meals, future crewed exploration missions, like those to Mars, might need a fresh food supply.
In order to investigate the effects of light quality and fertiliser on fruit production, microbiological safety, and nutritional value, the Veg-05 experiment produced dwarf tomatoes in the station's 'Veggie' facility.
The 'Veggie' vegetable-production system on the ISS gives an opportunity to develop a ‘pick-and-eat’ fresh vegetable component to food on the space station.
This particular investigation is anticipated to contribute to the establishment of horticulture standards to obtain high yields of secure, nutritious dwarf tomato fruit to augment a space diet of pre-packaged food.
It was also performed to evaluate any potential psychological effects that astronauts might experience from growing plants.
For this study, salad plants such leafy greens and dwarf tomatoes were grown in the 'Veggie' units while in space, with a focus on the effects of light quality and fertiliser formulation on the crops.
To assess the impacts of spaceflight, a duplicate ground study provided a comparison to the plants cultivated on the ISS.
Each crop was cultivated under two distinct LED lighting setups in two different Veggie chambers. Plant "pillows," which are sacks with a wicking surface filled with soilless substrate and fertiliser, were used to grow six plants.
The plants were nurtured for 104 days by the crew, who opened wicks to assist seedlings sprout, provided water, thinned the seedlings, pollinated them, and kept an eye on their health and development.
Additionally, crew members filled out a number of surveys to gauge how their mood changed as the plants grew.