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SpaceX’s 26th commercial resupply is set to begin this weekend, and will carry a ton of supplies, a pair of new solar arrays, dwarf tomato seeds and a variety of scientific experiments to the International Space Station.
The mission also delivers ice cream and Thanksgiving-style treats such as spicy green beans, cranapple dessert, pumpkin pie, and candy corn to the space station crew.
The Dragon spacecraft was scheduled to launch on Tuesday with 7,700 pounds (3,493 kilograms) of cargo from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, but bad weather delayed the launch. It is currently scheduled to take off on Saturday, November 26th at 2:20 PM ET.
The International Space Station’s Rollout Solar Array (iROSA) will be installed outside the floating laboratory during spacewalks scheduled for Nov. 29 and Dec. 3. A solar array powers the space station.
The shipment contains many health-related items such as: moon microscope kitPortable handheld microscopes allow astronauts to collect images of blood samples and send them to flight surgeons on the ground for diagnosis and treatment.
Nutrients are the key to staying healthy in space. But compared to the prepackaged meals an astronaut eats during his six-month stay in low-Earth orbit, the space station lacks supplies of fresh food.
“Not just nutrition, but looking at different types of plants as sources of nutrients that are difficult to maintain on long trips between far-flung destinations is critical to NASA’s exploration goals. Kirt Costello, Space Station Program Chief Scientist and Deputy Manager of the ISS Research Integration Office, said:
Astronauts have grown and tasted many different types of lettuce, radishes and chili on the International Space Station. Now, crew members can add miniature tomatoes (specifically Red Robin tomatoes) to the list of ingredients for space-grown salads.
Known as Pick-and-Eat Salad-Crop Productivity, Nutritional Value, and Acceptability to Supplement of ISS Food System, the experiment is part of an effort to provide continuous fresh food production in space.
Dwarf tomato seeds are grown with two different light treatments to measure the impact on plant nutritional value and taste, as well as the number of tomatoes that can be harvested. As a control experiment, red robin tomatoes are also grown on earth. Two crops are compared to measure the effect of the weightless environment on tomato growth.
Space tomatoes are grown in small sacks called plant pillows installed in the space station’s vegetable production system called the Vegetable Growth Chamber. Astronauts water the plants frequently as they grow, nurture the plants, and pollinate the flowers.
Gioia Massa, NASA Space Crop Scientist and Principal Investigator of the Tomato Research, said:
Tomatoes will be ready for the first taste test in the spring.
The crew expects three tomato crops at 90, 97 and 104 days after the plants begin to grow. In taste tests, the crew evaluates the flavor, aroma, juiciness and texture of tomatoes grown using two different light treatments. Half of each harvested tomato is frozen and returned to earth for analysis.
Growing plants on the space station not only provides an opportunity for fresh produce, creative taco nightit can also boost the mood of the crew during their long spaceflights.
Astronauts also conducted surveys to track their moods when caring for and interacting with plants, and how cultivating seedlings within the isolation and confinement of the space station affected their experience. See if you can strengthen it.
Hardware is still being developed to produce more crops on space stations and eventually on other planets, but scientists are already planning which plants will grow best on the Moon and Mars. Earlier this year, a team Succeeded in growing plants in lunar soil It contained samples collected during the Apollo program.
“Tomatoes will be a great crop for the moon,” Massa said. “They are very nutritious and very tasty, so I think the astronauts are very excited to grow them there.”