NASA has been successful in cultivating radish in space. Astronaut Kate Rubins harvested radish plants growing in the Advanced Plant Habitat (APH) aboard the International Space Station.
With frequent plans to visit the Moon and Mars, future astronauts will need a regular and fresh source of food as they take missions farther away from home. In addition to providing much-needed vitamins and minerals, growing plants in space contribute to sustainability and add a homely touch to exploration.
The plant experiment, called Plant Habitat-02 (PH-02) is the first time, the space research has grown radishes on the orbiting laboratory. They selected radishes because they are well understood by scientists and reach maturity in just 27 days. These model plants are also nutritious and edible and are genetically similar to Arabidopsis, a small flowering plant related to cabbage that researchers frequently study in microgravity.
“Radishes are a different kind of crop compared to leafy greens that astronauts previously grew on the space station, or dwarf wheat which was the first crop grown in the APH,” said Nicole Dufour, APH program manager at Kennedy Space Center. “Growing a range of crops helps us determine which plants thrive in microgravity and offer the best variety and nutritional balance for astronauts on long-duration missions.”
According to NASA, the structure of the experiment will allow them to identify the optimum balance of care and feeding needed to produce quality plants. While growing inside the habitat, the radishes required little maintenance from the crew.
The growth chamber uses red, blue, green and broad-spectrum white LED lights to provide a variety of light to help the plant’s growth. “Radishes provide great research possibilities by virtue of their sensitive bulb formation,” Karl Hasenstein, the study investigator said. “We can grow 20 plants in the APH, analyze CO2 effects, and mineral acquisition and distribution.”