The International Space Station (ISS) has been experimenting with growing its own lettuce and good news for astronauts, a study found the space-grown variety to be just as nutritious as Earth-grown.
The red romaine was analyzed by NASA scientists Gioia Massa and Christina Khodadad who looked at three batches of lettuce grown on the space station between 2014 and 2016. When they compared it to Earth varieties grown under similar relative humidity, carbon dioxide concentration, and temperature conditions, they found the nutrient levels to be very similar.
The only notable difference was the higher level of microorganisms in ISS vegetables, but none of these were found to be harmful to humans. The scientists attributed the difference to the microflora that lives on the space station.
NASA regularly sends supplies to the ISS, so growing their own vegetables isn’t critical, but this new discovery highlights the possibility of growing foods for long-distance missions where resupply would be more challenging. It also offers fresher food with no transportation costs to astronauts working on the ISS.
This exciting discovery opens up new doors for potential food stability and security in potential space colonies. After its success with lettuce, NASA is now experimenting with growing kale and cabbage on the station as well.