NASA has its eyes on future space missions when astronauts will venture into other planets like Mars. The food that they have adapted themselves to is basically prepackaged food, but from 2015, they have moved ahead to supplement their space diet with fresh greens. These are grown in the Vegetable Production System known as Veggie on the international space station (ISS).

In order to ensure that these plants are watered regularly, a special container has been developed by Tupperware, a company known for more than 50 years, for its plasticware. According to Financial Express, this is a new approach to watering plants in space and is under evaluation by NASA.

Problems to grow vegetables in space

The environment inside the International Space Station is not conducive to the growth of vegetables because of lack of the basic ingredients of life such as oxygen and water. In spite of these hurdles, NASA has made some efforts to water the plants in the Veggie system by using “pillows.” The results were not satisfactory because the plants did not get equal amounts of water and oxygen, and the growth was inconsistent with some faring better than others.

A research scientist of NASA has designed and prototyped a system in 2017 which has since been passed on to a private firm to make it compatible for use on the ISS. That firm has entrusted the work to Tupperware which will be responsible to fine tune it for use in the orbiting laboratory. The system will have provisions for countering the ill effects of microgravity on plants and will require minimum maintenance.

The future is bright

This Tupperware system will be flown to the International Space Station by the forthcoming SpaceX commercial resupply mission. There will be multiple modules which will be used to grow specific types of vegetables like lettuce. These have been grown earlier by NASA astronauts using the Veggie system. Some more modules will be launched by the Orbital ATK commercial resupply mission later this year, and these will be used to grow mustard. Subsequently, the lettuce and mustard grown by the Tupperware system will be evaluated against the Veggie system to compare its usefulness.

The success of experiments of this nature will define the self-sufficiency standards of astronauts and space travelers who aspire to colonize other planets like Mars. Precooked or prepackaged food is not a solution when journeys could extend for months. Hence, they must be in a position to arrange for their own lettuce, mustard and other such veggies on board the spaceship.