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Astronauts crave for flavourful food in space and therefore they hope to grow beans in space by 2021. Therefore, beautiful salads are sure to be on their plate.

A plant physiologist at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Space (CIRiS) at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Silje Wolff said in a statement, “The dream of every astronaut is to be able to eat fresh food like strawberries, cherry tomatoes or anything that’s really flavourful.”

Credit: Silje Wolff

According to a website Space.com, she also said that they are hopeful this will happen and that they envision a greenhouse with several varieties of vegetables.

“Apart from the nutritional benefits that the vegetables bring with it, it has a psychological comfort too when raised inside a sterile, white-walled environment like a space station as the astronauts often struggle with their appetites, leading to weight loss,” Wolff said.

Recently, she did an experiment where lettuce grew in space in specialized planters that regulate all water, nutrients, gas, and air specialized need. She aims to keep the plant fertilization as precise as possible. Even though she used artificial soil derived from lava rock as a substrate, her goal is to grow plants in water combined with life-sustaining nutrients.

Gardening has always been known to boost cognitive performance and mental well-being, which deteriorates under the harrowing effects of extended isolation and confinement.

NASA’s Scott Kelly, who spent 342 consecutive days aboard the ISS in 2015, for instance, wrote about the psychological stress he endured in his memoir of the experience, as mentioned in the report.

Currently, NTNU and CIRiS have teamed up with Italian and French researchers to figure out the practicality of cultivating plant-based food for long space journeys. While typical ISS missions run up to six months, people traveling to Mars will need to live and work and eat in space for at least a year, mentioned the researchers in the statement.

Wolff looks forward to a biological system so that astronauts can produce their own food and recycle all of the resources. “Astronauts like gardening and everything that reminds them of life on earth. They enjoy tending and watering the vegetables, and getting them to germinate,” Wolff said.