In order to support astronauts to perform longer missions farther from the earth, NASA needs to figure out how to provide them with a continuous supply of nutritious food. The freeze-dried food currently eaten by astronauts cannot achieve this goal because the key nutrients in this type of food will gradually decompose.
The aerospace vegetable planting system developed by NASA, called "Veggie", is a potential solution to this problem. The system is currently only the size of a suitcase and is used to grow plants on the International Space Station. So far, it has successfully grown three kinds of lettuce, and it has been determined by NASA researchers that one of the red lettuce is as nutritious as the lettuce on the earth. In the process of continuing to advance the development and application of this vegetable planting system, one of the challenges faced will be how to control microbial pollution in space.
The International Space Station and other space vehicles are sensitive environments, but microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi carried by astronauts usually pose no threat. However, if the wrong strain or sudden growth, it may endanger the health of the crew or endanger critical equipment. Therefore, NASA has been paying close attention to the microbial conditions in the space station, especially the growth pattern of microbes in the "Veggie" system.
Dr. Cherie Oubre, a senior scientist at NASA, said: “If the crew eats food contaminated with pathogens, they may get sick. Or, if the “Veggie” system is contaminated with plant pathogens, crops may be damaged or damaged. A poor harvest. To be prepared, we must assess the vulnerability of the system and monitor it carefully."
In fact, at this very moment, the astronauts on the space station may be wiping different components of the "Veggie" system, cultivating any microorganisms they find in a petri dish, and then analyzing and recording them to contribute to the monitoring of the "Veggie" system project.
This sampling work started in 2019 and is still in progress. By creating records of microbial activity, NASA researchers will be able to analyze the growth patterns of microbes in space and respond to the design and potential problems of the future "Veggie" system.
The technology developed by NASA has been used in the civil industry in the past. Then, the design adjustments they developed to avoid the pollution of the aerospace vegetable planting system may eventually prove to be equally useful in emerging food technology fields such as facility agriculture and cell-grown meat.