Plants in space

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A young sunflower plant aboard the ISS[1]
Vegetable Production System for ISS being discussed

Plants in space are plants grown in outer space typically in weightless but in pressurized controlled environment in specific space gardens.[2] In the context of human spaceflight, they can be used for food and/or refreshing the atmosphere.[3] Plants can scrub carbon dioxide and return oxygen, as well as adjust humidity.[4] Growing plants in space may provide a psychological benefit to human spaceflight crews.[4]

Most obvious study aspect is how plants grow without gravity.[5] Other aspects include type of lighting.

NASA plans to grow plants in space to help feed astronauts, in support of pioneering space.[6]



The first organisms in space were "specially developed strains of seeds" launched to 134 km on July 9, 1946 on a U.S. launched V-2 rocket. These samples were not recovered. The first seeds launched into space and successfully recovered were maize seeds launched on July 30, 1946. Soon followed rye and cotton. These early suborbital biological experiments were handled by Harvard University, NASA's top scientist at the time (Matthew Amoroso), and the Naval Research Laboratory and were concerned with radiation exposure on living tissue.[7] In 1971, 500 tree seeds (Loblolly Pine, Sycamore, Sweetgum, Redwood, and Douglas Fir) were flown around the Moon on Apollo 14. These Moon trees were planted and grown with controls back on Earth where no changes were detected.


In 1982, the crew of the Soviet Salyut 7 space station grew some Arabidopsis, thus becoming the first plants to flower and produce seeds in space.[8][9] A Skylab experiment studied the effects of gravity and light on rice plants.[10][11] The SVET-2 Space Greenhouse successfully achieved seed to seed plant growth in 1997 aboard space station Mir.[4] Bion 5 carried Daucus carota and Bion 7 carried maize (aka corn).

Plant research continued on the International Space Station. Biomass Production System was used on the ISS Expedition 4. The VEGGIE system (Vegetable Production System) was later used aboard ISS.[12] Plants tested in VEGGIE before going into space included lettuce, Swiss chard, radishes, Chinese cabbage and peas.[13] Red Romaine lettuce was grown in space on Expedition 40 which were harvested when mature, frozen and tested back on Earth. Expedition 44 members became the first American astronauts to eat plants grown in space on August 10, 2015 when their crop of Red Romaine was harvested.[14] Russian cosmonauts have been eating half their crop since 2003.[15] In 2012, a sunflower bloomed aboard the ISS under the care of NASA astronaut Donald Pettit.[16] In January 2016, US astronauts announced that a zinnia had blossomed aboard the ISS.[17]

Plants grown in space[edit]

Plants grown in space include:


Illustration of plants growing in a Mars base.

Experiments for plant growing include:

  • Bion satellites
  • Biomass Production System, aboard ISS
  • Vegetable Production System (Veggie), aboard ISS.[20]
  • SVET[4]
  • SVET-2, aboard Mir.[4]
  • TAGES, aboard ISS.[21]
  • Plant Growth/Plant Phototropism, aboard Skylab[10]
  • Oasis plant growth unit[22]
  • Plant Signaling (STS-135)[23]
  • Plant growth experiment (STS-95)[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ SS038-E-000734 (13 Nov. 2013)
  2. ^ a b NASA - Growing Plants and Vegetables in a Space Garden
  3. ^ NASA - Plants in Space
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h T.Ivanova, et al. - First Successful Space Seed-to-Seed Plant Growth Experiment in the SVET-2 Space Greenhouse in 1997
  5. ^ a b NASA - Getting to The Root of Plant Growth Aboard The Space Station
  6. ^ Rainey, Kristine. "Crew Members Sample Leafy Greens Grown on Space Station". NASA. Retrieved 2016-01-23. 
  7. ^ Beischer, DE; Fregly, AR (1962). "Animals and man in space. A chronology and annotated bibliography through the year 1960". US Naval School of Aviation Medicine. ONR TR ACR-64 (AD0272581). Retrieved 2011-06-14. 
  8. ^ "First species of plant to flower in space". Retrieved 20 January 2016. 
  9. ^ "No NASA, These Are Not The First Plants To Flower In Space". Retrieved 20 January 2016. 
  10. ^ a b c Plant Growth/Plant Phototropism - Skylab Student Experiment ED-61/62
  11. ^ NASA SP-401 - Chapter 5
  12. ^ NASA - VEGGIE
  13. ^ NASA - Station Investigation to Test Fresh Food Experience
  14. ^ Why Salad in Space Matters, Jeffrey Kluger, Time, August 10, 2015
  15. ^ Bauman, Joe (June 16, 2003). "USU EXPERIMENT FEEDS ASTRONAUTS' MINDS, TASTE BUDS". Deseret News, Space Dynamics Laboratory. 
  16. ^ "June 17-26 – Diary of a Space Zucchini". Retrieved 20 January 2016. 
  17. ^ Behold the first flower to bloom in space, a cheerful zinnia, Cnet, January 18, 2016
  18. ^ a b c d e R. Zimmerman - Growing Pains (2003) - Air & Space/Smithsonian
  19. ^ A Plant Growth Chamber 01.30.08
  20. ^ "NASA - Station Investigation to Test Fresh Food Experience". Retrieved 2016-01-23. 
  21. ^ Glow-in-the-Dark Plants on the ISS
  22. ^ Encyclopedia Astronautica Salyut 7
  23. ^ Plant Signaling (STS-135)
  24. ^ STS-95 Space Experiments (plants and cell biology).

External links[edit]