Galactic Gardens: How to Eat Local in Space


Written by Margret Aldrich

What must it feel like to be an astronaut: weightless, rocketing farther and farther from home and country, gazing out your craft’s window at the deepness of space, wondering where you can get a good salad…

As astronauts set their sights on a not-so-distant mission to Mars, scientists are wondering what to put on spacecraft menus. Current packaged meal options, while far more advanced than the nutrition pills and pureed-food tubes of early space travel, aren’t practical for an extended trip, says Alexandra Witze in Science News. “Six astronauts eating 3,000 calories a day for three years, the length of a Mars mission, adds up to 20 tons of prepared food that would need to be launched.”

Homegrown space food could be the answer. Researchers at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida are exploring ways for astronauts to raise their own vegetables in orbit, from radishes and lettuce to cherry tomatoes and mizuna greens. The plants, generating oxygen as well as food, are grown hydroponically, with blue, red, and green lights employed to aid production and special implements used to carry moisture to their roots.

But as with Sputnik 1, the Russians got here first. They’ve been growing food in space, on a small scale, for decades and have a miniature garden in their part of the International Space Station. Now, funding for research in the United States—which has been fickle over the years—is reinvigorated, thanks to the prospective trek to Mars.

Researchers suspect that space gardens won’t be the primary source of sustenance on galactic missions, but fresh-picked vegetables will be a welcome addition to the cycle of processed and packaged meals.

“Along with reducing trash and launch mass requirements, such crops would give astronauts a little diet variety and psychological lift,” writes Witze. After all, even astronauts love to eat local.

This post was originally published by the Utne Reader.


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Photo from ccharmon via flickr


Jim Ven
Jim Vabout a year ago

thanks for sharing.

Samantha Richardson

Love this idea so much. Makes me think of Star Trek: Voyager and how Nelix would cook stuff from the planets they had growing on the ship!

Sue H.
Sue H6 years ago

Gives a whole new meaning to "Grow Your Own"! It's a great idea, don't know why we haven't done this before.

Eternal Gardener
Eternal Gardener6 years ago

Rather grow my food on this precious planet!

Dan B.
Dan Brook6 years ago

check out my

Food for Thought---and Action

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Kahn L.
Kahn L6 years ago

Shall we take inspiration of creating more flexible local farm on Earth from "Astronauts's Mars trek"?Anyway, I do not think there is currently that much necessity to explore this food pattern that are prevalent in space shuttle.More advanced space travel technology is the real solution for those sky wanderers.

Andrea A.
Andrea A6 years ago


Nina Anghel
Nina Anghel6 years ago


rene davis
irene davis6 years ago


ANA MARIJA R6 years ago