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ISS crew harvest new crop of vegetables grown in space
by Jorge Sotomayor, Lead Increment Scientist, ISS Expeditions 51 and 52
Houston TX (SPX) May 17, 2017

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson works on the Light Microscopy Module on the International Space Station. The LMM is a flexible state-of-the-art microscope. Image courtesy NASA. For a larger version of this image please go here.

While preparing for the 200th spacewalk on the International Space Station, the crew members in orbit performed the latest harvest of vegetables grown in space. NASA astronaut Jack Fischer collected the latest crop of Tokyo Bekana Chinese cabbage for the Veg-03 investigation.

Some of this was consumed at meal-time, and the rest sealed for analysis back on Earth. Understanding how plants respond to microgravity is an important step for future long-duration space missions, which will require crew members to grow their own food. Astronauts on the station have previously grown lettuce and flowers in the Veggie facility.

Veggie provides lighting and necessary nutrients for plants by using a low-cost growth chamber and planting pillows, which deliver nutrients to the root system. The Veggie pillow concept is a low-maintenance, modular system that requires no additional energy beyond a special light to help the plants grow. It supports a variety of plant species that can be cultivated for fresh food, and even for education experiments.

Crew members have commented that they enjoy space gardening, and investigators believe growing plants could provide a psychological benefit to crew members on long-duration missions, just as gardening is often an enjoyable hobby for people on Earth. Data from this investigation could benefit agricultural practices on Earth by designing systems that use valuable resources such as water more efficiently.

NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson worked on setting up the Fluids Integrated Rack (FIR) for a biophysics study on the space station. The FIR is a research facility designed to host investigations into colloids, gels, bubbles, wetting and capillary action, including the phase changes from gas to liquid to solid. It provides a central location on the space station to research complex fluids.

Investigations range from fundamental research to technology development in support of NASA exploration missions and include life support, power, propulsion, and thermal control systems. The FIR minimizes the number of support items sent to the station by using different modules capable of supporting various types of experiments.

Ground teams commanded another round of NASA's Space Communications and Navigations Testbed (SCaN Testbed) investigation. The SCaN Testbed is a flexible radio system - designed at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland - that conforms to common, non-proprietary standards so agency flight controllers can change the software and how the equipment is used during flight. It would allow spacecraft crews and ground teams to recover from unpredicted errors or changes in the system.

Changing a radio's software after launch would give mission operators on the ground the ability to enhance communication systems for increased data flow and possibly resolve system problems. Using the same hardware platform for various missions and only changing the software to meet specific mission needs would reduce cost and risk. Radio technology designed for use in space could be used on Earth to develop technologically advanced communications products.

Crew members also performed an investigation about the environment in which they live and work from a practical and psychological point of view. The Habitability Assessment of International Space Station (Habitability) gives station residents the opportunity to make observations about the orbiting laboratory they call home.

For crew members on long-duration space missions, cabin designs must balance comfort and efficiency. The thoughts and ideas brought forth by the crew can help spacecraft designers understand how much habitable volume is needed, including whether a mission's duration impacts how much personal space crew members need.

The crew answers questionnaires and records video tours while making suggestions on layout and internal design. Results from the Habitability investigation will provide insight and contribute to the design of future spacecraft. It may also apply to workers who live and work in confined spaces with limited volume and resources on Earth, such as remote polar research stations, ocean drilling rigs or mines.

Progress was made on other investigations, outreach activities, and facilities this week, including the Combustion Integration Rack, GLACIER, ISS Ham Radio, OsteoOmics, Human Research Facility-2, Phase Change Heat Exchanger, Fine Motor Skills, ExPRESS Logistics Carrier-4 and the Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment (SAGE III).

Six-legged livestock - sustainable food production
Copenhagen, Denmark (SPX) May 15, 2017
Identifying areas of particular high impact is an important step to improving the environmental sustainability of production systems. Insects have been heralded as the foods of the future - and now the first study to measure the environmental impacts and identify hotspots associated with commercial insect production has been published. Cricket farming can be a sustainable way to produce an ... read more

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