NASA's astronauts aboard the International Space Station can now chew on fresh lettuce as the gardening experiment has managed to grow red romaine lettuce for the crew. 

 

The crop harvested is part of a gardening program called 'cut-and-come-again'. Astronaut Shane Kimbrough is in-charge of the new Vegie experiment (Veg-03) and from the looks of it is doing a pretty neat job. The latest Vegie round of experiment that started October 25 saw about six red lettuce plants growing simultaneously for the first time. And the most recent harvest took place on 2 December. It yielded a small amount of lettuce that was divided among the crew members. 

 

Image: NASA Image: NASA

 

This ongoing experiment shows potential in creating a sustainable source of food. Moreover, lettuce, in particular can be harvested (by cutting) and will regrow just in about 10 days. Again, making it a good renewable crop for the space station. Previously, astronaut Scott Kelly was involved in assisting the early stages of development of the Veggie system that has been developed by Orbital Technologies and tested at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida before being deployed to the ISS two years ago. The leafy greens were harvested for the first time last year (Veg 01) in August. So, the next obvious challenge was to increase the crop yield so that it can suffice the crew. 

 


While technology advancements take us places out of the world (literally), it's intriguing how we go back to the basics. The sustainable food supplement is considered as a critical part of NASA's journey to Mars. As it moves towards long-duration missions, Veggie could become a great resource for crew food growth and consumption.