The SpaceX-3 Dragon Capsule scheduled to launch today will carry with it something that International Space Station inhabitants must miss dearly from life on the ground — vegetables. To be more specific, the capsule will carry a gardening chamber called "Veggie."
Fresh produce isn't new to the ISS, but when it arrives, it is quickly consumed, and then they have to wait months before more arrives on the next multimillion grocery delivery. The Veggie is part of NASA's Veg-01 experiment, aiming to allow the crew to grow produce easily and quickly. According to NASA, the experiment will focus on growing "Outdredgeous" lettuce seedlings. The seedlings were implanted in special root mat "pillows."
Developed by Orbital Technologies Corporation (ORBITEC) in Madison, Wisconsin, the 11.5 by 14.5 inch container is the largest plant growth chamber in space to date. Veggie features a flat panel is LED lights to stimulate plant growth and to allow observation. Payload scientist Gioia Massa said "Determining food safety is one of our primary goals for this validation test." Back on Earth at Kennedy's Space Life Sciences Lab, lettuce and radishes were successfully grown with the unit in a simulated space environment.
Massa hopes the Veggie will be a viable source of food growth and consumption. As NASA explores long-duration missions into deeper space, it could also serve a recreational purpose. I can see it now — Martha Stewart tasting a space-grown salad, and commenting "This salad is out of this world."