The task of keeping a plant alive seems like a daunting task for many here on earth, but for the scientific minds at the National Aeronautical Space Administration (Nasa), plants in space could be the solution for feeding future astronauts and generating oxygen.
Nasa’s Advanced Plant Habitat, or APH, has been up at the International Space Station (ISS) and has been used to better understand plant development in a microgravity environment.
A microgravity environment means matter floats in outer space.
Because of this, photosynthesis and cell wall development will differ vastly as compared to plants on earth, which is why the APH had to be built.
Nasa has also used the APH to study whether or not there are genetic mutations in a plant caused by the microgravity environment and whether they carry on to the next generation.
The device was delivered to the ISS by the Orbital ATK CRS-9, a commercial supply ship that delivers goods into outer space.
Thale Cress plants, native to Africa and Eurasia, were grown inside the APH this year.
Thale Cress plants are considered to be weeds and are often found alongside motorways, making them durable plants back on earth, which could justify Nasa’s choice.
“The space environment is stressful for all living organisms. Understanding how plants respond will help crews on future missions successfully grow plants for food and oxygen generation,” Nasa said on its website.
“One of the first multi-generational plant experiments aboard the space station, Plant Habitat-3, studies whether genetic adaptations in microgravity transfer to the next generation.
This research may provide insight into how to provide food and other services for future space missions by growing repeated generations of crops,” it said about the fully automated habitat.