Food Grown in Antarctica Without Sunlight or Soil is Good News for Astronauts

Thursday, 05 April 2018 - 7:06PM
Earth
Space
Thursday, 05 April 2018 - 7:06PM
Food Grown in Antarctica Without Sunlight or Soil is Good News for Astronauts
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For better or worse, one particular part of The Martian that really stuck with the audience was how the stranded Mars astronaut had to grow potatoes on Mars using some "improvised" fertilizer.

But Martian soil on its own can't grow crops without that extra manure, nor can soil on the Moon. As manned missions to either of these locales (or even farther) become closer to reality, a group of German scientists at the Antarctic research base Neumayer Station III have successfully grown their first crops without any sunlight, pesticides or even soil.

All in all, the scientists grew about 8 pounds (3.6 kilograms) of salad greens like lettuce, 18 cucumbers and 70 radishes inside the research station's greenhouse. Not too shabby for a first harvest, especially when the Antarctic temperatures outside were -4 degrees Fahrenheit (-20 degrees Celsius).



The greenhouse is part of the EDEN-ISS project, with help from the German Aerospace Center (DLR), which is focused on finding different ways to ensure that humans can still have a steady food source in space. The DLR went on to say that they think the researchers can be growing 8.8-11 pounds (4-5 kilograms) by May, according to a report from the Associated Press.

If this goes well, it could be good news for astronauts who would otherwise be forced to grow accustomed to astronaut food. And for longterm missions where it would be tough to stock a pre-planned and non-perishable food supply for a large group of people, the ability to grow crops in warehouse-sized greenhouses sans sunlight or earth will be crucial.

Attempts to grow vegetable in space have been done before, but this could be a big step forward for astronauts getting to eat like normal people while off-world.
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