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XROOTS eXposed Root On-Orbit Test System

Tired of eating food like toothpaste out of a tube? Tired of reheating the same old Earth food while weightless in the splendor of space? You want fresh vegetables, and so do astronauts.

Current systems for growing plants in space use soil or a growth medium. These systems are small and do not scale well in a space environment due to mass and containment, maintenance, and sanitation issues. XROOTS tests using hydroponic (water-based) and aeroponic (air-based) techniques instead, which could reduce overall system mass. The investigation takes video and still images of root zone and crops for evaluation of the plant life cycle from seed germination through maturity in multiple independent growth chambers.

“The investigation incorporates unique Root Modules designed to provide delivery and recovery of nutrient solution to the plants so they can be grown without the additional mass of any soil media,” explains principal investigator John Wetzel of Sierra Nevada Corporation. “This approach is much more mass efficient for future large-scale plant growth systems in space.”

Results could provide insight into the development of larger scale systems to grow food crops for future space exploration and habitats. Components of the system developed for this investigation also could enhance cultivation of plants in terrestrial settings such as greenhouses and contribute to better food security for people on Earth.

(Via NASA)

Of course, hydroponics has been around for a long while; Francis Bacon described it in the early 1600's. But science fiction writers have made good use of it.

In her 1940 story The Hydroponic Monster, Maria Moravsky described what happens when you give the right growth media to a seed from outer space!


('The Hydroponic Monster' by Maria Maravsky)

As he looked at the unusual cactus, it seemed to stir, from the roots up, giving the weird impression of a cat stretching.

Widmer took off his newly-fitted glasses with their modernistic, pointed-up lenses which made him somewhat resemble a curious faun. He wiped them, put them on again on his straight nose. No, the glasses were not blurred. Everything looked as before. Only during the time given to this procedure, the plant seemed to have doubled in size.

Widmer caught a sharp breath. He was used to the miraculously rapid growth of plants fed with a solution of minerals, but this was too much.

(Read more about hydroponics)

Advice to astronauts: stick with Earthly seeds. It's safer.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 2/1/2022)

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