Zucchinis in space—it’s really not as outrageous as it sounds. Modern Farmer reports that later this year, NASA will be producing its own food in orbit for the first time ever. NASA’s Vegetable Production System (VEGGIE) program, set to hit the International Space Station (a habitable satellite orbiting the earth) towards the end of this year, is NASA’s first attempt to grow produce that could actually sustain space travelers. The ultimate goal is to create a regenerative growth system, so food could be continuously grown on the space station—and eventually on moon colonies and Mars.

It costs roughly $10,000 a pound to send food to the ISS, and growing food in space will help alleviate this extreme expense. Modern Farmer points out that in addition to NASA’s space salad research, “The Mars Society is testing a greenhouse in a remote corner of Utah, researchers at the University of Gelph in Ontario are looking at long-term crops like soybeans and barley, and Purdue University scientists are marshaling vertical garden design for space conditions.”

The first vegetable to be tested will be The Outredgeous lettuce, because it is fast growing and loaded with antioxidants—which are a potential antidote for cosmic radiation. Later veggies will be radishes, snap peas, and a special strain of tomato that is designed to take up minimal space.

You’re not a starman about to go habitate the ISS, so why should you care? This plant could be the key to the future. If we eventually exhaust our resources on this planet, space farming will prove essential to the survival of our species. That’s enough reason for us to get behind growing space salad.


[via Modern Farmer]