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. In the context of human spaceflight, they can be used for food and/or refreshing the atmosphere.[2] Plants can scrub carbon dioxide and return oxygen, as well as adjust humidity.[3] Plants can be grown in a space garden.[4] Aspects include how plants grow without gravity,[5] and different types of lighting. Growing plants in space may provide a psychological benefit to human spaceflight crews.[3]

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 and the Naval Research Laboratory and were concerned with radiation exposure on living tissue.[6] 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.

A Skylab experiment studied the effects of gravity and light on rice plants.[7][8] The SVET-2 Space Greenhouse successfully achieved seed to seed plant growth in 1997 aboard space station Mir.[3] Bion 5 carried Daucus carota and Bion 7 carried maize.

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.[9] Plants tested in VEGGIE before going into space included lettuce, Swiss chard, radishes, Chinese cabbage and peas.[10] 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 astronauts to eat plants grown in space on August 10, 2015 when their crop of Red Romaine was harvested.[11] Russian cosmonauts have been eating half their crop since 2003.[12]


Plant growth experiment on ISS

Examples of plants grown in space:


  • Bion satellites
  • Biomass Production System, aboard ISS
  • VEGGIE, aboard ISS.[10]
  • SVET[3]
  • SVET-2, aboard Mir.[3]
  • TAGES, aboard ISS.[15]
  • Plant Growth/Plant Phototropism, aboard Skylab[7]
  • Oasis plant growth unit[16]
  • Plant Signaling (STS-135)[17]
  • Plant growth experiment (STS-95)[18]

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