Space veggies grown in Dutch greenhouses

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ESTABLISHING a human colony on the Moon and travelling to Mars has actually been the stuff of dreams since the dawn of the space age.

These visions face lots of obstacles. How can humans survive for months or years in the ultra-hostile environment of space? What, for example, will they eat?

Agricultural scientists at a Dutch university say they are taking the primary steps towards supplying a response.

They are growing veggies in soils just like those found on the Moon and Mars, trying to find ways of helping space pioneers grow their own crops.

When individuals go to the Moon and Mars they likewise need to eat, and it’s most convenient for them to grow their own food, said Wieger Wamelink, surrounded by numerous lots plants in a unique greenhouse at Wageningen, an agricultural university in central Netherlands.

We wanted to use genuine Martian and lunar soil, to see if plants would actually grow in it, Wamelink stated.

Of course, getting real lunar and Martian potting soil is a difficult asks. An Internet search revealed a not likely supplier: NASA.

The United States space agency makes ground much like that on the Moon from sand found in an Arizona desert, while Mars crimson soil is scooped from a volcano in Hawaii, Wamelink said.

The very first experiments began in 2013 after Wageningen received an order of 100 kgs of NASA’s replica space soil at a significant cost of 2,000 euros (US$ 2,285).

Wamelink stuck tomatoes, peas, cress and other plants in pots including the simulated soil and crossed his fingers.

To operate in this soil was very unique. Nobody, not even NASA, might inform us exactly what would happen, even simply by just including water, he said.

The imitation ground in the beginning was a little hesitant to soak up water, but soon ended up being great potting soil.

Like the actor Matt Damon in the science fiction movie The Martian, Wamelink enjoyed with awe as his space veggies grew larger day-by-day.

Particularly in the Martian soil, plants were growing very quick and very good. They even started to flower, something that we never prepared for, Wamelink said. The 50-day experiment was written up in the science journal PLOS One in August 2014.

Safe for people?

An important question however stays whether these unusual vegetables are safe to eat.

Martian and lunar soil, consisting of NASA s own imitation, might consist of heavy metals that are safe to plants but might prove deadly to humans.

Wamelink has actually come up with a possible option. If analyses show that the veggies include arsenic, mercury or iron making them unfit for human consumption, the soil can be cleansed by growing other plant types such as violets which soak up the toxins.

Wamelink yields that the experiment has a downside it is being conducted in non-sterile conditions on Earth where only the nutrient quality of the soil is being evaluated.

There s a lot more to test, Wamelink confessed.

Exceptionally cold temperatures dropping to minus 62 degrees Celsius on Mars as well as an absence of oxygen means that lunar or Martian veggies and fruit might just be grown in a closed and controlled environment.

The center would have to be pressurized to typical atmospheric conditions in the world, heated and lit, and protected from cosmic radiation, which damages plant DNA.

Those points to a space greenhouse a type of container buried underground and kitted out with photovoltaic panels and LED lighting. Water should be no problem as it is found as ice on both the Moon and Mars, stated Wamelink.

Other questions that require responses consist of the presence of friendly bacteria to help plant development and what takes place to plants that grow in low gravity.

Long method to go

NASA prepares a human journey to Mars within the next 10 to 15 years approximately but comparable strategies are also being pursued by billionaire Elon Musk and the Dutch company Mars One, tentatively intending to establish human colonies on the Red Planet.

Technology and the expertise to keep astronauts alive on Mars still has a long method to go said Christophe Lasseur, a European Space Agency (ESA) Life Support expert, who deals with metabolic elements of space travel.

Lasseur believed Wamelink s research of growing plants in space soils is not a priority.

He stated other requirements for space survival like the appropriate facilities to grow similar vegetables in labs was far more important to supply optimal reliability for future groups.

We should regard a plant as a piece of technology and comprehend precisely what occurs to it initially. All chemical, microbiological and physiological elements (of plants in extraterrestrial conditions) need to be comprehended and mapped. We cannot take threats.

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