UAE astronaut Sultan AlNeyadi, who is now a flight engineer aboard the International Space Station (ISS), has begun his six-month research mission by harvesting tomatoes. And they will be used not only for a space study — astronauts will eat them, too.
According to Nasa, the Veg-05 space botany study is part of an investigation called ‘Pick-and-Eat Salad-Crop Productivity, Nutritional Value, and Acceptability to Supplement the ISS Food System’. It is “the next step in efforts to address the need for a continuous fresh-food production system in space”.
“The research of Veg-05 expands crop variety to dwarf tomatoes and focuses on the impact of light quality and fertiliser on fruit production, microbial food safety, nutritional value, taste acceptability by the crew, and the overall behavioural health benefits of having plants and fresh food in space,” Nasa added.
Fresh food in space
Leafy greens have successfully been grown in spaceflight. This means the typical pre-packaged astronaut diet is supplemented by fresh foods during ISS’ orbit around Earth.
“Growing plants in space provide fresh food and enhance the overall living experience for crew members on future long-duration missions,” Nasa explained, adding that the dwarf tomatoes are grown in the station’s veggie facility.
The hardware is similar to a miniature greenhouse and could be adapted to provide fresh produce for those without access to a yard on Earth and for horticultural therapy for elderly or disabled individuals.
“The space station is a robust microgravity laboratory with a multitude of specialised research facilities and tools that has supported many scientific breakthroughs from investigations spanning every major scientific discipline,” Nasa noted.
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More science activities
Meanwhile, other Crew-6 members — Nasa astronauts Stephen Bowen, Warren Hoburg, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev, who are now also Expedition 68 flight engineers — have likewise started standard science and maintenance activities.
Bowen and Hoburg conducted ultrasound scans and collecting blood pressure measurements to learn how an astronaut’s eyes, brain, and blood vessels change during a space mission. Fedyaev, for his part, wore a sensor-packed cap and practised futuristic piloting techniques on a computer a crew member might use to control spacecraft or robots on planetary missions.
Crew-6 astronauts have been busy since arriving on the ISS at 10.40 (UAE time) on March 3. On Monday, after extensive handover and familiarisation of space station operations and systems, they helped instal new space biology hardware, replaced electronic components, and updated emergency procedures for the expanded ISS crew.
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