We've all seen the movies and television shows that portrait space travel as being more than just a few days or weeks living in space, which is a far cry from reality. The media tends to show an exciting future where living in space for very long durations is possible. But, what about food in space? Currently astronauts get their nutrition from tubes or bags of specially prepared meals. But, NASA is finding out that there may be a healthier and more satisfying way for space travelers to enjoy their food. Hydroponic growing in space!
Some day man will colonize the moon or perhaps another planet, such as Mars. There are a dizzying amount of problems to resolve and one of the main trouble areas is how to maintain food supplies. It would not be very cost effective, or even practical, over time to continue to have delivered food from the earth to other heavenly bodies. In response to this problem, NASA has begun to study what methods of growing are best suited to space travel and colonization. Hydroponics and aeroponics are two strong contenders to solve the problem of renewable food sources in space.
Carrying soil and being able to renew nutrients in that soil would prove to be difficult in space flight. But, using lighter growing mediums or no medium at all could be the answer. Using and reusing water and a mix of nutrients would be much more suited to situations where weight and space was an issue. Imagine astronauts as self-sufficient farmers as well as being highly trained pioneers and scientists. Plant growth could produce and renew oxygen supplies and eliminate carbon dioxide from inside of a spacecraft. Currently, scientists are studying which crops are compatible to grow together in small areas, and how zero gravity affects growing plant life. Other possible problems being studied involve the amount of light some plants may need and which fruits and vegetables are more aggressive in the use of nutrients.
It will likely be essential for astronauts and space explorers to be able to produce their own food in future projects that will take years to complete. Imagine that, an indoor, hydroponic garden, similar to the one you may be enjoying right now, producing oxygen and nutrition for travelers in space! Science fiction fans, buckle up, it's starting to get real. The dreams of children are going to be the reality of adults in the not so distant future!