back to article Plants in SPAAAAAAACE are good for you

Living in space is grueling. The repetitiveness of daily exercise, experiments, crappy food, and claustrophobia can chip away at an astronaut’s psychological well-being, but scientists have suggested a preventative measure: plants. The idea of booting plants into space has been around for a while. The first batch of seeds – …

  1. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    There's got to be a lot more of this if humans want to live on other planets.

    And it's well past time this research was started.

    Face it. The human race is not going to spread across the universe on an endless supply of MRE's*

    Officially "Meal, Ready to Eat," unofficially "Meals Rejected by Ethiopians." Not exactly a promising sign of quality Cuisine.

    1. malle-herbert Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: There's got to be a lot more of this if humans want to live on other planets.

      Meal, Ready to Excrement...

    2. AndrewV

      Re: There's got to be a lot more of this if humans want to live on other planets.

      Meal Refusing to Exit.

    3. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: There's got to be a lot more of this if humans want to live on other planets.

      well, the article also hits on the "feng shui" aspect of having plants in your office, or a fish tank, or something of that nature. It improves your mental state.

    4. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: There's got to be a lot more of this if humans want to live on other planets.

      MREs are good value - three lies for the price of one.

    5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: There's got to be a lot more of this if humans want to live on other planets.

      When it comes to colonising other planets the engineering challenges are going to be a minor part in relation to the rest.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
        Unhappy

        "colonising other planets the engineering challenges are going to be a minor part"

        True.

        But it's taken a long time to get to this stage.

        The joker in the pack is what are the drivers for people wanting to go to (say) Mars?

        The question that's been phrased is "If you're going to Mars for a 'better life', what is that 'better life'?"

        And will most of the people for whom "Life on Mars" would be a better life be allowed to go?

    6. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: There's got to be a lot more of this if humans want to live on other planets.

      The problem is - as always - weight.

      The weight of food needed to sustain a handful of humans for a year is... well, quite enormous. Yes, you can argue that you can recycle your own waste, etc. but it doesn't get away from the fact that that requires more heavy equipment to do so.

      The break-even point on weight has to be low, or it's just not worth bothering. Weight has been the expense on everything from satellite launches to the Apollo missions to modern probes. Whatever you send, you have to get up to 10's of 1000's of mph to escape Earth. And that's the CHEAPEST POSSIBLE WAY to do so (moving slower than that costs you more because you have to "stay up" for longer while still trying to make progress).

      And when you look at how much it cost to launch a human, all the food they would need to survive the minimal amount of time, all the equipment / seeds / whatever they would need to grow - with the best fortune possible - more food as quickly as possible using as much of the local resources as possible, plus all the life-support and other stuff... it's a ludicrous amount of equipment. No human has ever been more than a month away from an entire planet-worth of food. No human has ever grown anything near enough to sustain themselves in space. No human would be able to carry the amount of stuff you'd need to do so. The Martian - which I absolutely hate because the writing is childish and atrocious - kinda got this one right. To get to that point, you need an entire damn base which you have to give over to food production, and then you might just have enough to stay alive a bit longer.

      Weight kills space travel. And the problem we have is that you can barely pack a year's worth of food onto a long spaceflight if you just threw money at the problem. Let alone enough stuff to actually grow another year's worth - guaranteed - within a year.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: There's got to be a lot more of this if humans want to live on other planets.

        "whatever they would need to grow"

        Growing stuff requires hydrogen in the form of water, oxygen in the form of water and carbon dioxide, carbon in the form of carbon dioxide and nitrogen in the form of nitrates or ammonium compounds as the main components of your biomass. Unless these are available on the target planet (I'll assume that minerals such as potassium, phosphorus etc. are) then every gram of biomass that you want to ever have in your colony has to be ferried there. It's not like colonising a new land on Earth where you can expect to tap into the existing stuff that's already in circulation.

  2. wobblestar

    "They also can control humidity levels in the space station by producing oxygen."

    How does that work?

    1. pnony
      Boffin

      Photosynthesis: carbon dioxide plus water equals sugar plus oxygen. In other words, excess humidity is drawn out of the air and turned into food.

      1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Which is a good thing because the average human is a fine biological humidifier.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Photosynthesis

        You missed off light.

        1. enormous c word

          Re: Photosynthesis

          ok so needs to grow anywhere with minimum light - the answer is mushrooms and rhubarb - we have the entree and the desert sorted - how about a main course - anyone?

      3. Pompous Git Silver badge

        "Photosynthesis: carbon dioxide plus water equals sugar plus oxygen. In other words, excess humidity is drawn out of the air and turned into food."
        You're not going to get much of a crop yield if you rely on water in the air! Nearly all a plant's water needs are met via its roots in the soil (or other substrate).

    2. Pompous Git Silver badge

      "How does that work?"
      I suspect the writer substituted "and" with "by". Near enough is good enough in gerbillism.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Do they grow rocket salad?

    1. ravenviz
      Happy

      RE: I see what you did there

      Now there's an idea, a genetically engineered plant that can grow a whole salad!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: RE: I see what you did there

        It's a plant, Eruca sativa.

        You have to have enough space to grow it though.

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: RE: I see what you did there

          "You have to have enough space to grow it though."

          This is where the 'inflatable module' makes a lot of sense. Put a bunch of seedlings in several inflatable modules, inflate after takeoff, let them grow.

          I would guess that, at some point, we'll start getting some artificial gravity "spinning" modules that help the plants [and the people] with at least a partial gravity. Plants sort of need to know which way is 'down' for the roots to work correctly.

          /me has been looking forward to that classic '2001 a Space Odyssey' spinning wheel station. If it hadn't been for politics getting in the way, we'd have been there by now...

          1. Pompous Git Silver badge
            Happy

            Re: RE: I see what you did there

            See what I did there Bob? No caps and I gave you an upvote. Keep it up. Please...

          2. Adrian Harvey
            Boffin

            Re: RE: I see what you did there

            The trouble with spinning to simulate gravity is that rotational inertia causes some odd effects. If you pick something up it will feel like it's being dragged sideways as it tries to remain on the same course.

            It may be ok for plants as they don't move much, but for humans it's quite disconcerting. Try lifting your arm on a spinning fairground ride if you get the chance!

            1. Fink-Nottle

              Re: RE: I see what you did there

              > for humans it's quite disconcerting.

              Imagine, if you will, a pair of Charlie Dimmocks spinning in space ... that certainly engenders some odd effects.

            2. oldcoder

              Re: RE: I see what you did there

              It all depends on the amount of gravity being simulated, and the radius use.

              Larger radius, less effect.

              Lower gravity, less effect.

            3. Trollslayer Silver badge
              Boffin

              Re: RE: I see what you did there

              It's called the Coriolis effect

        2. chivo243 Silver badge

          Re: RE: I see what you did there

          @AC

          +1

          "You have to have enough space to grow it though.'

          Like there isn't enough out there, nicely done!

    2. macjules Silver badge

      RE: I see what you did there

      Do they grow rocket salad?

      No, but they can grow space cabbage.

      1. ravenviz

        Re: RE: I see what you did there

        LOL @ Ren & Stimpy! Always a bit too bizarre for me. :-D

  4. James 51 Silver badge

    There's been some researching about how gardening, talking walks in the countryside etc etc benefits mental health. Not a surprise it also applies in ssssppppppaaaacccccceeeee!

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In space no one can hear you prune.

  6. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge
    Happy

    Weed

    If astronauts grew dope would they become spaced-out?

    1. ravenviz
      Joke

      Re: Weed

      "Ok it's still four months to Mars, who ate all the Jaffa Cakes last night?"

    2. chivo243 Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Weed

      @Mystic Megabyte

      If astronauts grew dope?

      Unfortunately, they would no longer be astronauts, but criminals housed in Lunarmax with Boris the Animal as a cellmate. Just for growing a plant... Oh, what a world!

      1. unwarranted triumphalism

        Re: Weed

        Too bad. There are rules, and there are consequences for breaking those rules.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Weed

          @unwarranted triumphalism

          Under which intergalactic treaty does it come under?

          Which is an interesting point, who has jurisdiction in space and whose laws are you bound by?

        2. Tom 64
          Flame

          Re: Weed

          >"Too bad. There are rules, and there are consequences for breaking those rules."

          I was under the impression that in space, since you are at least going to be 200 miles from any national soil that maritime law applies.

          I'm not sure it says diddly squat about what you can smoke.

          1. Dave 126 Silver badge

            Re: Weed

            There's a chapter in William Gibson's Neuromancer in which the characters visit Zion, a Rastafarian space station. The residents there grow certain plants, and make good use of the stations PA system.

        3. jmch Silver badge

          Re: Weed

          "There are rules"

          Rules aren't physical laws, they are made-up by humans, they can be changed.

          It's not like humans are infallible and their made-up rules are always or anything, is it? Making illegal a naturally growing plant with lots of health benefits and akmost no harmful side effects, that's sensible, is it?

      2. Montreal Sean

        Re: Weed

        As of July 1st 2018, would Canadian astronauts be safe to grow weed in space?

      3. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: Weed

        chivo243,

        It's JUST BORIS!

  7. ammabamma
    Happy

    Plants 'n things

    > Now, a paper published in the journal Open Agriculture shows that “people-plant interactions” are therapeutic.

    The U.S. Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station has a "grow room" off the hydroponic garden for this purpose. Gives people the luxury of greenery and humid warmth to enjoy.

    http://www.southpolestation.com/0405/05photos6.html

    1. Pompous Git Silver badge

      Re: Plants 'n things

      "The U.S. Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station has a "grow room" off the hydroponic garden for this purpose. Gives people the luxury of greenery and humid warmth to enjoy."

      Australia's stations too.

      All our stations have productive hydroponics facilities. These ensure a steady supply of fresh and colourful produce for the table year round, and have the added advantage of providing a great recreational activity for expeditioners.

      This is particularly important during the long winter months when there is little or no sun. Working in a brightly lit room surrounded by greenery provides psychological benefit for those who endure very short days in a landscape dominated by muted whites, greys and blues of the snow and ice.

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Plants 'n things

        There's a scene in Lynch's Dune in which Jessica Atreides is shown a green and lush indoor garden on the titular desert planet. Obviously a nod to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon story, gardens built by a desert king to assuage his wife's home sickness.

        1. Hollerithevo Silver badge

          Re: Plants 'n things

          The film 'Sunshine' shows gardens on two space-ships, and you don't need anecdotal astronaut evidence to feel the impact of seeing carrots pulled from soil or tall trees filling the 'eco-capsule' when all you've been seeing otherwise is rooms and corridors of metal and glass.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Little ISS of Horrors

    venus flytrap + space radiation -> Audrey !!

  9. CentralCoasty
    Facepalm

    Cant believe there isnt a single comment about Silent Running.......

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