SgtSomeone

Flowers grown on the ISS, what's next?

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So NASA announced that they're harvesting the Zinnias that astronaut Scott Kelly successfully grew on the ISS, and they also had a really cool backgrounder article on the story of plant-growing on the ISS that I liked because I could see the direct implications for future space missions.  Apparently there have been other plants and flowers in space including one ISS 'naut's personal project where he grew them out of ziplock sandwich bags, as well as the batches of cabbage that Kelly and crew were able to eat a couple months ago. 

The plan is ultimately to grow tomatoes on the ISS by 2017. One of the comments in the articles that I found really interesting was that, in addition to being a dietary supplement, they're hoping that having plants and a zero-g garden will be good for the crew's mental health. 

My questions are:
a)How significant an achievement are these Zinnias compared to the cabbage and the tomatoes? I wonder why they didn't just start with tomatoes, given everything else that they've grown?
b)What kind of roles do you see plants serving on long-duration flights (i.e to Mars)? Just a small hobby for the 'nauts? Or a significant dietary supplement? Or large enough to function as life support food and CO2 scrubbing? 
c)Given that all of our food is (currently) grown under gravity on earth, what kind of traits should we change in the plants (DNA-engineering?) so they can flourish in zero-G? I know humans have a number of cardio and skeletal issues that hinders long-term spaceflight, do plants like tomatoes have any equivalent major weaknesses? 

(I figured this topic would have been covered before, but I didn't turn up anything when I searched. If the general topic is a duplicate, focus on the Scott Kelly ISS mission part!)

Edited by SgtSomeone

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Every species of plants have different requirements. Amount of necessary water, sunlight, temperature, nutrients - the more different species will be grown, the more data scientists will have to analyse. Maybe zinnias make particularly good test article?

Probably there wont't be enough space onboard interplanetary motherships to grow enough plants to provide life support and food for whole crew. But there should be enough to provide some treats for everyone every week or so. And a patch of live, green plants definitely will be a nice morale boost :)

What traits? Well, plants in zero-G definitely do not need sturdy stalks - though vine-like appendages would be good for stability. Speed of growth, fast rotation, nutritional value tailored to specific demands of human body in freefall - those would be desirable traits. Also, taste - astronauts already have problems with tasting their food. Plants with stronger taste certainly will be more welcomed than bland ones :)

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On the other hand, if they grow garlic everybody better really like it, because garlic plants smell pretty strongly of garlic. I would assume they are very careful of strong smells in a closed environment like that.

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5 hours ago, Scotius said:

But there should be enough to provide some treats for everyone every week or so.

 

Folks who haven't been away from fresh vegetables cannot possibly appreciate how incredibly welcome this will be.   I served on an SSBN (which launched the test missile in my userpic), and at the end of patrol the inspection teams would traditionally bring a couple of cases of tomatoes and a couple of cases of lettuce onboard with them.  A couple of times I was on the crew loading them, and we'd open a case and bite into a tomato or a head of lettuce like it was an apple.   Sliders (hamburgers) were traditionally lunch that day, and a lot of guys would skip the meat and just make a lettuce and tomato sandwich.

This is way more important for morale than a 'patch of green'.

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36 minutes ago, mikegarrison said:

On the other hand, if they grow garlic everybody better really like it, because garlic plants smell pretty strongly of garlic. I would assume they are very careful of strong smells in a closed environment like that.

Oh they do. In fact, they have a person in NASA whose sole job is to sniff almost all the stuff they are sending to ISS:

 

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They may end up used to it in long time. And that's worser than not...

Guess anything strong-tasting but weak-scenting ?

 

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Radishes. There are cultivars with a seriously strong, spicy taste, they don't smell, and entire plant is edible raw. Radish salad with a bit of sour cream is the best spring treat i know of :)1024px-Remscheid_L%C3%BCttringhausen_-_B

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On 2/13/2016 at 3:39 PM, SgtSomeone said:

So NASA announced that they're harvesting the Zinnias that astronaut Scott Kelly successfully grew on the ISS, and they also had a really cool backgrounder article on the story of plant-growing on the ISS that I liked because I could see the direct implications for future space missions.  Apparently there have been other plants and flowers in space including one ISS 'naut's personal project where he grew them out of ziplock sandwich bags, as well as the batches of cabbage that Kelly and crew were able to eat a couple months ago. 

The plan is ultimately to grow tomatoes on the ISS by 2017. One of the comments in the articles that I found really interesting was that, in addition to being a dietary supplement, they're hoping that having plants and a zero-g garden will be good for the crew's mental health. 

My questions are:
a)How significant an achievement are these Zinnias compared to the cabbage and the tomatoes? I wonder why they didn't just start with tomatoes, given everything else that they've grown?
b)What kind of roles do you see plants serving on long-duration flights (i.e to Mars)? Just a small hobby for the 'nauts? Or a significant dietary supplement? Or large enough to function as life support food and CO2 scrubbing? 
c)Given that all of our food is (currently) grown under gravity on earth, what kind of traits should we change in the plants (DNA-engineering?) so they can flourish in zero-G? I know humans have a number of cardio and skeletal issues that hinders long-term spaceflight, do plants like tomatoes have any equivalent major weaknesses? 

(I figured this topic would have been covered before, but I didn't turn up anything when I searched. If the general topic is a duplicate, focus on the Scott Kelly ISS mission part!)

a) Flowering plants are more complex than lettuce, and growing as many types of plants as possible is important for astrobiological research.

b) On the long term, self-sutainment is the only choice, but in the near-term, a supplement.

c) No idea. Nobody really knows for sure until it's tried, TBH, but plants likely face the same problem as blood when it comes to upwelling of water.

On 2/14/2016 at 10:13 PM, mikegarrison said:

On the other hand, if they grow garlic everybody better really like it, because garlic plants smell pretty strongly of garlic. I would assume they are very careful of strong smells in a closed environment like that.

However, it should mask any sweat...:)

19 hours ago, Atlas2342 said:

Potatoes, that's what's next. Potatoes.

Problem is that those, despite having lots of calories, is relatively bland. Sweet potatoes would be better.

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Next is a wet ground smell. As neither sand, nor clay have any smell, the wet ground smell like a mildew.
Because this is in-ground mildew what gives the wet ground smell.
Because any plant (flowers, potato, daisy) is an incubator of different mildew and microbes (including but not limited to putrefication and fermentation bacteries).
And while on the Earth you can just open the window and wash them from the air by the fresh air, inside the space station all these crippers with fly in mid-air, landing inside lungs.
So, a space greenhouse is not an option.

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10 minutes ago, kerbiloid said:

Next is a wet ground smell. As neither sand, nor clay have any smell, the wet ground smell like a mildew.
Because this is in-ground mildew what gives the wet ground smell.
Because any plant (flowers, potato, daisy) is an incubator of different mildew and microbes (including but not limited to putrefication and fermentation bacteries).
And while on the Earth you can just open the window and wash them from the air by the fresh air, inside the space station all these crippers with fly in mid-air, landing inside lungs.
So, a space greenhouse is not an option.

You can make an airlock and make people wear basic suits.

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24 minutes ago, fredinno said:

You can make an airlock and make people wear basic suits.

When this is a small biolab module - yes.
But a food plantation...

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22 minutes ago, kerbiloid said:

When this is a small biolab module - yes.
But a food plantation...

Sure, why not?

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1 hour ago, kerbiloid said:

Because any plant (flowers, potato, daisy) is an incubator of different mildew and microbes (including but not limited to putrefication and fermentation bacteries).
And while on the Earth you can just open the window and wash them from the air by the fresh air, inside the space station all these crippers with fly in mid-air, landing inside lungs.
So, a space greenhouse is not an option.

As they say [[citation needed]].   We already live, 24/7/365, in an environment swarming with those microbes with no noticeable detrimental effects save when a house gets overwhelmed with mold growth.

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58 minutes ago, DerekL1963 said:

As they say [[citation needed]].   We already live, 24/7/365, in an environment swarming with those microbes with no noticeable detrimental effects save when a house gets overwhelmed with mold growth.

Sometimes we open our windows and are walking outdoors, so we are not inhaling their spores 24/7/365 and every day we decrease their concentration in air.

Edited by kerbiloid

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I'm pretty sure there will be no soil onboard long-range spaceships. Hydroponics only, eventually substrates like rockwool mats.

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1 hour ago, Scotius said:

I'm pretty sure there will be no soil onboard long-range spaceships. Hydroponics only, eventually substrates like rockwool mats.

So, if put a space grown tomato and forget about it, it will not rot, fermentate and become covered with mildew?
 

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2 hours ago, Scotius said:

I'm pretty sure there will be no soil onboard long-range spaceships. Hydroponics only, eventually substrates like rockwool mats.

I dunno, what else is dried excrement useful for?

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2 minutes ago, p1t1o said:

I dunno, what else is dried excrement useful for?

Growing potatoes?

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7 minutes ago, Kerbart said:

Growing potatoes?

Well thats what I meant - in soil (soil being essentially water, a mineral substrate plus bacteria)

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31 minutes ago, p1t1o said:

I dunno, what else is dried excrement useful for?

It is a bad idea to use human excrement as fertilizers due to all the pathogen, so I doubt they will use that.

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14 minutes ago, RainDreamer said:

It is a bad idea to use human excrement as fertilizers due to all the pathogen, so I doubt they will use that.

A average human body consists of about 10 billion (US 10 trillion?) cells, above and inside us live some 100 billion bacterias of gigantic diversity which make up to two kilogram of our actual bodyweight.
In one year we deposit our whole bodyweight in form of these bacteria.

Nobody can tell which one is "pathogen", us,... or our little guests.
One thing is sure, without our little guests, we won`t do much at all anymore, except stop living quite immediatly, some hours left maybe. 

Let`s give our little friends something good to digest!
 

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8 hours ago, kerbiloid said:
9 hours ago, DerekL1963 said:

As they say [[citation needed]].   We already live, 24/7/365, in an environment swarming with those microbes with no noticeable detrimental effects save when a house gets overwhelmed with mold growth.

Sometimes we open our windows and are walking outdoors, so we are not inhaling their spores 24/7/365 and every day we decrease their concentration in air.

There are little critters in the outside air too, so yes - we are inhaling them 24/7/365.   And if we only "sometimes" open windows, then we are not "every day decreasing their concentration".   Try again.

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23 minutes ago, Mikki said:

A average human body consists of about 10 billion (US 10 trillion?) cells, above and inside us live some 100 billion bacterias of gigantic diversity which make up to two kilogram of our actual bodyweight.
In one year we deposit our whole bodyweight in form of these bacteria.

Nobody can tell which one is "pathogen", us,... or our little guests.
One thing is sure, without our little guests, we won`t do much at all anymore, except stop living quite immediatly, some hours left maybe. 

Let`s give our little friends something good to digest!
 

I am pretty sure we can tell if there are pathogens, such as salmonella, e.coli, parasitics worms, or other nasties in the waste. I am sure we can treat them of course and keep the useful bacteria by various method (can google that stuff), then we can weigh in on the pros/cons of doing so for space station greenhouse, but well, that is for another time. Right now I just think it's better to extract the mineral needed for plant growth from the waste and put it in hydroponic system than using the thing untreated or having to bring a treatment plant up to space.

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On 14.2.2016 at 7:31 AM, DerekL1963 said:

 

Folks who haven't been away from fresh vegetables cannot possibly appreciate how incredibly welcome this will be.   I served on an SSBN (which launched the test missile in my userpic), and at the end of patrol the inspection teams would traditionally bring a couple of cases of tomatoes and a couple of cases of lettuce onboard with them.  A couple of times I was on the crew loading them, and we'd open a case and bite into a tomato or a head of lettuce like it was an apple.   Sliders (hamburgers) were traditionally lunch that day, and a lot of guys would skip the meat and just make a lettuce and tomato sandwich.

This is way more important for morale than a 'patch of green'.

This, now add freeze dried meat or fish (bacalhau), rice to the fresh vegetables and you are set. 

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