NASA designs new plant habitat for growing plants in International Space Station

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Dr. Oscar Monje, a research scientist, pours a growing substrate in the science carrier of the Advanced Plant Habitat (APH). Photo credit: NASA/Bill White

When travelling a long journey that would take more than a week on commutation, no one would pack the food sufficient for those many days. Fresh the food, healthier it is. The astronauts in International Space Station also felt the same.

NASA is trying its all possible ways to grow food in the ISS. Its mission ‘Veggie’ has been proving good. Recently, it harvested cabbages in the space-station. NASA’s scientists have come up with a nearly self-sufficient plant growth system.

The new system, Advanced Plant Habitat will soon find its home in space-station. A few components are prepared for delivery from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center to the station. The Orbital ATK’s seventh commercial resupply mission to the station will deliver these components.

Dr. Howard Levine, the project scientist is overseeing the development of the advanced system, along with Dr. Gioia Massa, a life science project scientist and also a deputy project scientist.

Scientists prepare Apogee wheat seeds for the science carrier of the Advanced Plant Habitat (APH). Photo credit: NASA/Bill White

Arabidopsis seeds have been growing in the prototype habitat. It will be the first plant experiment, called PH-01. The new plant habitat is a fully enclosed, closed-loop system with an environmentally controlled growth chamber. It uses red, blue and green LED lights and broad spectrum white LED lights. It has more than 180 sensors to relay real-time information like temperature, oxygen content and moisture levels in each part of the plant.

It’s PHARMER (Plant Habitat Avionics Real-Time Manager in EXPRESS Rack) will also provide real-time data telemetry, remote commanding and photo down-link. An active watering system with sensors will detect when the plants need water and keep water flowing as needed.

This new plant growth system by NASA will help researchers understand how plants grow inn space. They will use the ‘Advanced Plant Habitat’ to conduct plants grow in space. This will thereby help NASA prepare crew to grow their own food in space.