Increased awareness of fruit-bearing plants may also help to alleviate the psychological problems of long-term mobility. There is another mental connection to food that does not come from waterless places. Spencer says the team opens the APH door every day to see their fellow showers with all the love of home gardeners. When harvest day came, they found their money around the ISS, taking selfies and enjoying the fruits of their labor. Even when the scorching heat of the first bite made them raise their faces, air travelers still enjoyed the chips, which they ate with fajita beef and dehydrated tomatoes and artichokes.
“We did not consider the heat, so to speak [the peppers] it may not be dangerous, but perhaps astronauts need a little more spice in their lives, “says Paul Bosland, who along with colleagues at the club. Chile Pepper Institute made a gene for the Spanish Summer Pepper Seeds at Plant Habitat-04. (That’s the new pride of New Mexico.)
Working with NASA, Bosland has grown a variety of plants that can meet the needs of astronomers and how to grow a plant in the atmosphere. Bosland crosses were designed with Mars in mind: They are born to be faster, more compact, more efficient under low light, stronger in less clutter, and more than three times as much vitamin C supplementation to prevent scurvy.
Every aspect of plant growth is mechanically engineered. Crops were planted along with specially formulated fertilizers in soilless, arselite clays, and each quadrant had mineral filters that protected the seedlings from burns due to residual mineral fertilizers. When they sprouted, the celestial bodies trimmed the seeds until there were only four left. The 180-plus sensors controlled every aspect of their size, including changing the color of the lights to suit their size and keep them at a manageable distance.
Despite the large area under control, microgravity exerted a powerful influence on plants in some unexpected way. Without gravity, the flowers and their pollen grains grew upward. Surprisingly, this prevented the APH from having to pollinate – using fans who emitted air to collect pollen, as the wind does. Instead, astronauts have to fill bees like bees, and pollinate one plant at a time.
Microgravity also posed a challenge to irrigation. As shown by Canadian Space Agency, water acts differently in microgravity than on Earth. Unable to fall, run, or climb, water forms a liquid that covers the surface of anything that sticks. But irrigation water can stop the roots of the plant; as Bosland puts it, “peppers do not like their wet feet.”
This was one of the challenges that APH engineer and research scientist Kennedy Space Center Oscar Monje had to overcome. Systems recycled water in a closed loop; both tests used an approximate amount of water as an office coolant. Water sensors regulate the amount of adhesion that sticks to the surface of the roots. Then any water that is not taken by the plant can evaporate after the moisture sensors form a dry pepper environment. It is not a technology ready to be announced, the moon or Mars. “APH uses an irrigation method that is not sustainable in current crop farming. But it is better to do space experiments, ”says Monje.