If you are wondering is there any need of space agriculture, then your concern is right. Astronauts, and employees who work in space can’t simply make a quick visit to the grocery store, if they need any good range of healthy meal choices. That is why there is a need to have the farming concept in space too.

 And this is done to have a fresh, and healthy diet during long space missions. Astronauts must have nutrient-packed food available. Till today, they bring the majority of their needed food from Earth. And as its very common that space missions got prolonged. That is why it has become important for the researchers to cultivate plants. This cultivation will serve to enhance their diet and provides a good atmosphere like home to them too.

Today, we will highlight some of the major projects by NASA & ESA when it comes to the space agriculture research.

What Backgrounded Study has been Provided by SpaceX?

As SpaceX’s 25th cargo resupply mission for NASA (SpX-25) is all ready towards the International Space Station. It will be transporting an important space agricultural and its biology study. Furthermore, this investigation also holds the potential to revolutionize the methods that we use to cultivate and sustain crops. That is why both in the space environment and on our home planet Earth will have a better point of view about agriculture.

How SpaceX has Conduct a Study on Space Agriculture?

This experiment is known as Dynamics of Microbiomes in Space” (DynaMoS). And it centers around the investigation of small organisms that we don’t know. Moreover, the initial indications of life on Earth trace back more than three billion years.

These microorganisms that is also known as microbe. They will eventually paved the way for all the life forms thriving on our planet today. With the passage of time, these microbes have evolved to effectively to the  available resources. And soil stands out as one of the most common, and opted ecosystems that has diverse microbial communities.

Microbes that stays in the soil plays a crucial role in the carbon cycle. And that is why the circulation of other essential nutrients, which in turn supports the growth of plants. Which is an important factor for the quality sustain of all life.

The DynaMoS project has a aim to dissect the impact of microgravity in space agriculture. And other variables on the metabolic plays important role among communities of soil microorganisms. This study will particularly highlight the soil microorganism groups which is known as  chitin. It is basically a carbon polymer that ranks as the second most prevalent on our planet.

Results from the Dynamics of Microbiomes in Space (DynaMoS) investigation will compare soil samples full of microbes flown aboard the International Space Station and ground control samples at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC).

How Space Agriculture Pave a Way in Science Inventions & Discoveries?

As we all know that consistent efforts plays an important role in the plant growth. And they holds a good significant in space exploration. This is why paving into the microorganism communities that are found within soil takes on fundamental role in our many space explorations.

What is BPS & How it Contributes to Space Agriculture?

NASA’s Biological and Physical Sciences Division takes the lead in driving scientific revelations. And it further facilitates the science exploration. They do it by harnessing space environments for conducting studies that is not possible on Earth.

We all know that investigating biological and physical phenomena within extreme conditions provides researchers with so much knowledge.  With the means to push forward the important scientific insights necessary for extending our reach and duration in space missions.  Aside from this, the future space agriculture’s research yield valuable insights that have practical applications here on Earth.

Dynamics of Microbiomes in Space
Four bags containing 13 tubes each, like this one filled with soil, will fly to the International Space Station as part of the Dynamics of Microbiomes in Space (DynaMoS) investigation.

Important Words by a Scientist of BPS (Biological and Physical Sciences)

Dr. Mamta Patel Nagaraja. Who is a deputy program scientist for space biology for NASA’s Biological and Physical Sciences (BPS) division. He said:

“Farmers on Earth face challenges with weather changes, balancing carbon levels in soil, and other unpredictable forces, but growing crops in space is a whole different playing field.

One factor that is key is understanding how soil microbes perform and function in microgravity since they heavily affect the carbon and nutrient levels. Understanding the behavior of these microbes in spaceflight has the potential to improve agricultural production for long duration space travel. Which includes to other planets, and of course, farming right here on Earth.”

What is APH & How it Contributes to Space Agriculture?

The Advanced Plant Habitat (APH) also serves as a growth chamber into the station which helps in the plant research. This system has LED lights and a micro clay substrate. That is couple with control release fertilizer. It effectively provide water, nutrients, and oxygen to the plant roots.

However, what sets APH apart is its enclosed and automated design. Which is equipped with cameras and over 180 sensors. They maintain constant communication with a ground-based team stationed at Kennedy.

Space Agriculture
John “JC” Carver, a payload integration engineer with Kennedy’s Test and Operations Support Contract, opens the door to the growth chamber of the Advanced Plant Habitat Flight Unit No. 1 for a test harvest of half of the Arabidopsis thaliana plants growing within.
Credits: NASA/Leif Heimbold

Furthermore, it demands less day-to-day attention from the crew. Automation handles aspects such as water recovery and distribution, atmospheric composition, moisture levels, and temperature regulation. APH features an expanded palette of LED light colors compared to Veggie, including red, green, blue, white, far red, and even infrared. Which further benefits the nighttime imaging capabilities.

What is BRIC LED Lights?

The Biological Research in Canisters (BRIC) serves as a facility that help out in investigating the impact of space conditions on tiny organisms. Which can be cultivate in petri dishes. These organisms encompass entities like yeast and microbes. The latest iteration, known as BRIC-LED, has introduced light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to cater to biological specimens such as plants, mosses, algae, and cyanobacteria that rely on light to produce their sustenance.

Currently, BRIC-LED is undergoing tests to validate its hardware. Scientists are diligently ensuring that the LEDs remain within suitable temperature ranges for the plants while also conducting various system checks. In the near future, researchers like Dr. Simon Gilroy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison will utilize this facility to carry out their studies.

When did NASA start growing plants in space?

The timeline of these space-based projects of space agriculture is as follows:

  • Advanced Plant Habitat. It commenced its journey aboard the ISS in April 2017.
  • Bion Satellites. That stary back in 1973.
  • Biomass Production System. Which embarked on its mission in April 2002 aboard the ISS.
  • Vegetable Production System (Veggie). And it took off in May 2014, finding its place aboard the ISS.

How does NASA help agriculture?

NASA Acres collaborates with various stakeholders within the agricultural domain to create data and tools derived from Earth observatories. These resources are aims at enhancing production levels. While protecting the land, water, the atmosphere, and human well-being.

What food did NASA grow in space?

NASA has achieved successful cultivation of plants. That includes lettuce and radishes, and has examined their reactions to the space environment in space agriculture research. This has a comprehensive analysis ranging from gene expression to even assessing the spiciness of the plants. NASA’s Plant Habitat-04 experiment further builds upon prior endeavors, extending to the growth of peppers within the confines of the Advanced Plant Habitat (APH).

Farming Projects by NASA
The first growth test of crops in the Advanced Plant Habitat aboard the International Space Station yielded great results. Arabidopsis seeds – small flowering plants related to cabbage and mustard – grew for about six weeks, and dwarf wheat for five weeks.
Credits: NASA

What is the NASA Veggie program?

The Vegetable Production System (Veggie) stands as a plant growth setup developed and employed by NASA within the context of outer space conditions. Veggie holds a dual purpose: to furnish astronauts with a self-sustaining and lasting food source, while also offering a platform for leisure and relaxation through therapeutic gardening activities.

Space Agriculture
Zinnia plants from the Veggie ground control system are being harvested in the Flight Equipment Development Laboratory in the Space Station Processing Facility at Kennedy. A similar zinnia harvest was conducted by astronaut Scott Kelly on the International Space Station. Credits: NASA/Bill White

What is the Role of ESA in Space Agriculture?

On January 25, 2023, the European Space Agency (ESA) has a collaboration with the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) and the German Federal Office for Agriculture and Food (BLE). They held an event that united the research of space agriculture in space exploration and agri-food sectors. The goal was to collaboratively address common challenges and lay out a shared trajectory for progress.

The urge to learn more about the cosmos has captivated humans for generations. One of the problems facing scientists and engineers as we continue to push the limits of space exploration is how to obtain food on long-duration space trips. Space farming is the answer to this problem.

What is Space Farming?

Also known as space agriculture crops are grown in space. Space food production is important because it allows astronauts to have access to healthy, fresh food even on extended trips. The ultimate goal of astronomical farming is to establish a closed-loop system that recycles water and nutrients, allowing the system to maintain itself indefinitely.

The Challenges and difficulties:

Space agriculture is not an easy task. It also requires innovative solutions. However, It has unique challenges. Space has no atmosphere, making plant growth difficult without solar radiation protection. As no gravity implies water and nutrients don’t flow downward like on Earth. Watering and fertilizing plants is challenging. Space is another issue. Space expeditions require lots of equipment, making farm space scarce. Moreover, the closed spaceship environment limits error. So, if the farm fails, it could harm the crew.

Lack of Gravity

Without gravity, this kind of farming is difficult. Plants on Earth also use gravity to direct their roots and stems. Space plants grow in all directions, making structural stability challenging. Tangled plants stunt growth. Scientists created growing chambers that use light to simulate gravity to address this problem.

Absence of Atmosphere

The lack of a natural environment also poses another difficulty for space farming. Earth’s atmosphere protects plants from radiation and provides carbon dioxide for photosynthesis. Radiation can harm DNA and stunt growth in space since there is no atmosphere. Scientists have constructed growing chambers with carbon dioxide scrubbers to remove CO2 and replace it with fresh air.

Limited Space

Moreover, Spacecraft have limited space, making farming difficult. Long-term missions require more crops to feed the crew. Scientists created compact growth chambers to grow several crops in a small space. They are also considering growing crops on spacecraft walls and floors.

Closed Environment

The crew’s survival depends on the farm’s success in a closed spacecraft. Farm issues like water or air supply failures can be disastrous. However, Scientists are creating automated technologies to monitor and regulate farms. These devices can sense environmental changes like temperature and humidity and adjust to maintain optimal plant growth.

Harsh Environment

Finally, plants must survive high radiation and temperature variations in space. Scientists are testing space-resistant genetically engineered plants. They’re creating radiation-resistant crops and temperature-tolerant plants.

The Innovative Experiments in Space Farming:

Despite the challenges, there have been significant advancements in space agriculture. Let’s take a look at some of the most interesting experiments in this field:

Veggie Experiment:

The NASA Veggie Experiment also marks a crucial turning point for farming in space. The hydroponic Veggie Experiment grows fresh vegetables in space. NASA designed the technology to supply fresh and nutritious meals for long-duration space missions.

Since 2014, the Veggie Experiment on the ISS has proven successful. Astronauts have grown zinnias, lettuce, and radishes. The Veggie system has shown that plants can grow and develop normally in microgravity, shedding light on agricultural astrology.

Veggie Experiment benefits space exploration. The technology feeds astronauts fresh, healthy meals, reducing their reliance on processed food. It can also assist astronauts on long-term missions to feel more at home, improving their mental health.

Advanced Plant Habitat:

The Advanced Plant Habitat (APH) is a growth chamber on the International Space Station that allows plants to grow in a controlled environment. The APH has more features than the Veggie Experiment, including adjustable red, blue, and green LED lights, a temperature control system, and a CO2 control system. The APH has been used to grow crops such as wheat and mustard.


“GreenHab” at the Mars Desert Research Station in Utah is also a thriving space agricultural project. The small greenhouse GreenHab simulates space habitat conditions. It’s airtight and lit artificially. Researchers can test plant growth methods in the GreenHab.

The GreenHab’s desert location resembles Mars. Researchers can examine how plants adapt to the severe desert climate and create space-related procedures. The GreenHab has grown lettuce, tomatoes, and mushrooms. Hydroponics and other GreenHab methods optimize plant growth and productivity. The GreenHab project opened astrological farming research. Moreover, Scientists and engineers are creating vertical farming and other space habitat-optimizing technology.

ALINA lunar lander:

The Lunar Plant Growth Experiment (LPX), a miniature “biosphere” cylinder, will be carried by the ALINA lunar lander, an exciting development in farming. The LPX will have basil, turnips, and mustard. The experiment examines plant growth and development on the Moon and tests its viability.

NASA will also deploy and monitor the LPX biosphere cylinder on the Moon using the ALINA lander. LPX biospheres are sealed cylinders with artificial soil, nutrients, and water. Its growth chamber simulates the lunar day and night cycle, giving plants light and darkness like on Earth. Moreover, LPX experiment will reveal farming in space problems and space habitat crops.

Lunar Greenhouse:

The Lunar Greenhouse is a project by the University of Arizona that aims to create a self-sustaining greenhouse on the moon. Moreover, The greenhouse would use lunar soil as a growing medium and would recycle water and nutrients. The project has already completed a prototype greenhouse that was tested in the Arizona desert.

Wrap Up!

Lastly, Space gardening is difficult yet might support human existence beyond Earth. Scientists and engineers have found new solutions to space farming’s unique obstacles, including lack of gravity, atmosphere, space, and closed habitat. The NASA Veggie Experiment and Lunar Greenhouse prototype show that space agriculture can support long-term space missions and human settlement on other planets. So,  This kind of farming can help astronauts and future space pioneers stay healthy as we explore the cosmos.


Published by: Sky Headlines