HomeIndustryAerospaceWays We Can Grow Food for Future Space Colonies

Ways We Can Grow Food for Future Space Colonies

The Vegetable Production System, known as Veggie, is a space garden residing on the space station the future of planting plants, vegetables and more in space
Credits: SAIC / NASA

Designing a sustainable agricultural system for astronauts will be one of the biggest challenges facing space colonists. But there are several ways we can grow food for our future colonies through the use of innovative methods of farming and a focus on climate control, light, and water availability.

The cost of sending a pound (453 grams) of anything just to low Earth orbit is estimated at $10,000 today, but NASA wants to lower the cost to just a few hundred over the next 25 years.

Growing plants in space

Mankind is constantly developing and colonization of other planets is undisputed, but without nutrient-rich soil, you don’t have many alternatives. Currently, the best way to grow plants in space or on other planets is to grow them hydroponically.

Hydroponics is the process of growing plants without soil. Instead, the plant roots are suspended in a nutrient-rich solution and exposed to light.

This method of growing plants is especially useful in space, where it can be difficult to get enough nutrients and water to sustain plant growth. Hydroponics also allows plants to grow faster and more efficiently than they would naturally. kboomtech kboom nasa
Credits: NASA

In space, hydroponics can be used to grow food, which may be necessary if we ever colonize other planets and have to provide our own food sources. The first step is to create a controlled environment within which to grow plants.

The next step is building a hydroponic system that will allow plants to grow without soil. This can be done by using a system that provides nutrients and water directly to the roots of the plant, or via an overhead system where plants are suspended above their nutrient solution.

The next step is building a hydroponic system that will allow plants to grow without soil. This can be done by using a system that provides nutrients and water directly to the roots of the plant, or via an overhead system where plants are suspended above their nutrient solution, which already happened, and you can read about it down below.


Veggie is a plant-growing system, and its purpose is to add fresh plants to astronauts’ diets while they are on the International Space Station or even anywhere in space.

VEG-01 A contains one set of six plant pillows planted with red lettuce seeds. Veggie utilizes passive wicking to supply water and nutrients to the plants as they grow. The roots are suspended in the water and feed on nutrients that are added to the water. The plant also gets oxygen from air bubbles in the water.

For the Veg-01 experiment, researchers are testing and validating the Veggie hardware, and the plants will be returned to Earth to determine food safety. Veggie experiment of NASA. hydroponics
Credits: NASA/Alex Gerst

The first lettuce crop was started on 8 May 2014 by astronaut Steve Swanson, and it grew for 33 days. Only 3 of the initial 6 crops survived, but they were healthy enough to be frozen and sent back to Earth for examination. NASA says the results were good, with the plants being even cleaner than those bought at grocery stores.

For decades, NASA has experimented with growing plants in space but always the results have been sent back to Earth for testing. Finally, in 2015, astronauts on the International Space Station had red romaine lettuce on the menu, as crew mate Scot Kelly tweeted, “But first, lettuce take a #selfie”.

The Advance Plant Habitat

The Advanced Plant Habitat (APH), like Veggie, is a plant growth chamber developed by NASA that lets astronauts grow and eat fresh produce on the International Space Station. It allows astronauts to grow plants in space similar to the way they would on Earth.

NASA astronaut and Expedition 65 Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei prepares for the routine debris removal procedure for chile peppers growing in the Advanced Plant Habitat as part of the Plant Habit-04 experiment being conducted aboard the International Space Station. The chile pepper seeds started growing on July 12, 2021, and represent one of the longest and most challenging plant experiments attempted aboard the orbiting laboratory. They will be harvested twice, once in late October and again in late November. Astronauts will sanitize the peppers, eat part of their harvest, and return the rest to Earth for analysis. What we learn will inform future crop growth and food supplementation activities for deep space exploration.
Credits: NASA

The Advance Plant Habitat was built using technology from Veggie that allows it to control light levels and nutrition on demand, but with more independence than Veggie. The APH uses red, blue, and green LED lights and wide spectrum white LED lights. This complex system also has more than 180 sensors that send real-time data back to Earth, measuring temperature, oxygen, and moisture content at several points in the chamber. cameras

NASA is currently developing new methods and technologies to supply fresh food for astronauts on longer journeys, as well as ways to bring crops back home. By 2025, NASA plans to grow vegetables in a specialized greenhouse aboard the International Space Station (ISS), with the goal of eventually on a deep-space mission.

“We can build all the rockets we want to go to Mars, but it won’t work unless we have food to eat,” Jacob Torres, a horticultural scientist at NASA.

Choosing the right food to grow

Plants should be chosen that can tolerate a harsher living environment and survive in space conditions.

Expedition 65 Flight Engineers (from left) Mark Vande Hei, Shane Kimbrough, Akihiko Hoshide and Megan McArthur, pose with chile peppers grown in space for the first time aboard the International Space Station for the Plant Habitat-04 investigation.
what kind of plants we can grow in space moon and mars
Credits: NASA

So far, tests of crop growth in the Advanced Plant Habitat on board the International Space Station have been successful.

The most popular plants grown here include rice, sunflowers, red romaine lettuce, cabbage, onions, dwarf wheat, potatoes, peas, garlic, and to the surprise of many, even flowers such as tulips and Zinnia hybrida.

Recently, NASA chose to grow the first fruit on the ISS in the now fully automated Advanced Plant Habitat, and that is Española chili peppers. After two years of research, these were chosen from a multitude of chili peppers because they have a short growing time, are easily pollinated, and grow at high altitudes.

“The astronauts have often expressed a desire for more spicy and flavourful foods, and so having a bit of hot flavour also seemed to be a good thing. Plus, many peppers are very high in vitamin C, which is important for space diets,” NASA plant physiologist Ray Wheeler said.

“We were looking for varieties that don’t grow too tall, and yet are very productive in the controlled environments that we would be using in space.”

Growing food on the surface of the Moon or Mars?

CSNA/Siyu Zhang/Kevin M. Gill

Part of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program, Chang’e 4, a robotic spacecraft, landed on the Moon in 2019, carrying with it a 3 kg (6.61 lb) sealed “biosphere” with numerous seeds and insect eggs. This is a part of a test to see whether plants and insects can hatch and grow together in synergy.

The sealed packet contained seeds of potatoes, tomatoes, and A.Thaliana, a flowering plant, which became the first plants ever to grow on the Moon. Tests of plant growth in space had been done before this experiment, but the sealed package also contained silkworm eggs.

Researchers hope that plants and larvae will live in synergy inside the container sent to the Moon.

Why grow in space?

Astronauts are on long-duration missions and receive food parcels along with fresh food delivered on regular resupply missions. NASA is trying to reduce the cost of delivering everything, but most importantly, trying to grow our own plants wherever we are is an advantage.

Growing plants on the surface of the Moon and Mars is a significant challenge for mankind at the moment, it seems to be evolving at a fast pace. Who knows? In the near future, we may have our own colonies on the Moon or on planets like Mars or even further away.

These packages, stored for a long period of time, have the effect of degrading the quality of the food inside. Astronauts need key nutrients like vitamin C and vitamin K.

At worst, all these experiments to grow plants in space will help us if the Earth is hit by an asteroid. But that’s unlikely and hopefully, we’ll only see it in the movies.

Read more:

What do Astronauts Eat in Space

Why Do Some Planes Leave White Trails In The Sky?

Virgin Hyperloop: The Revolution of Traveling


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