What if astronauts swooped down on asteroids with vegetable crops? It sounds like science fiction, but some researchers are working to make this scenario a reality in the future.
In one experiment, lettuce, radishes and peppers were grown in mixtures of peat and a material that mimics the rock fragments and soil of a type of asteroid which contains phosphorus and potassium on its surface, nutrients that could promote plant development.
This is one of the studies that stemmed from a problem with astronauts’ diets. These are generally dehydrated foods that are quick to prepare, since it is not possible to bring fresh foods (which require good preservation, with refrigerators) to the space.
Not only does this mean uninteresting and nutritious meals, but it also makes long-term missions difficult – because, of course, spending too much time in the space would require carrying a lot of supplies. Thus, space farming could be the next step towards sustainability in space, as the researchers write. new studypublished no Journal of Planetary Science.
how was the study
The experiment took place at the University of North Dakota, USA. Researcher Steven Russell chose vegetables already grown on board the international space station and compared plant growth in different mixtures of fake asteroid soil and peat, with microgravity simulators.
Russell and his colleagues noticed that in mixtures with different concentrations of peat, plants grew. This would prevent excessive soil compaction and improve water retention. On the other hand, vegetables didn’t thrive in pots that contained nothing but asteroid soil.
“Further investigation is needed to determine mitigation strategies to make the asteroid’s regolith more suitable soil,” the researchers write.
Fieber-Beyer, a university scientist who participated in the study, plans to grow vetch seeds in fake asteroid soil, let the plants decompose, and then mix them with organic matter.
She hopes this will prevent the soil from compacting too much for future experimental crops. Additionally, the seeds are lighter than peat and could be transported through space more easily.
“If our goal is to establish a long-term presence in space, we can only do that if we have food,” the scientist said. communicated. By establishing terrariums on asteroids, robots could take over the maintenance of “autonomous farms”.
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