Thursday, 8 October 2015

Astronauts use Lighting Technology to grow potatoes in space!

Well martian was not a myth after all,  as NASA have announced their latest technology which uses LED Lighting to enable the growth of vegtables in space.  Martian for those who don't know is a film stared by actor matt damon which describes a mans struggle for survival in space.

Matt demon's quest for survival in martian 

Under those harsh natural circumstances an astronaut named Mark Watney (matt damon's character)  created a way in which he can reproduce potatoes. He achieved this by cutting them down to smaller sizes and then increasing the temperature in his survival pod to ensure the right environment is available for growth. The release of the film was prior to the unveiling of water being found in mars,  so he also had to create water to ensure the irrigation of the potatoes.  

survival of the fittest. Matt demon working on his crop in new film Martian

Planet earth is blessed with large amount of water for irrigating the plants and a huge supply of sunlight for keeping the plant healthy. In contrast space doesn't posses great amount of this, meaning most plants will need to be grown indoors. Step up the latest LED grow light system technology from NASA called the veggie developed by orbital technologies. It assist scientist to grow plantation in zero gravity conditions.
This lighting system emits a purple and almost magenta coloured beam that is necessary in stimulating the growth of the plant.  Although the only colours required to grow plants are Red and Blue, green was thrown into the mix in order to neutralise the purple light and make the plant look more edible.

DR Rey Wheeler, leader of advanced life support activities from the Exploration Research and Technology program in Kennedy said " they are probably the most efficient in terms of electrical power conversion. The green LEDs help to enhance the human visual perception of the plants, but they don't put out as much light as the red and blues" 

would you like some lettuce from space?- researchers investigating the growth of plantation in space  

 However if humans were to live in space growing food is not the only problem. Mars averages -80and that is well below freezing point making mars very difficult to live in, but even to say the necessary insulation is equipped on the planet, people will still need to eat and growing some vegetables won't be enough to create a inhabitable environment for humans. Oxygen and water are also necessities which need to be used resourcefully in space. the lack of water means irrigation of plants has to preciece and calculated. NASA funded research for bioserve space technologies, a non profit research centre situated at the university of colorado in order to look at the the connection between the amount of water and leaf rigidity. They found on earth were water is in high supply traditional irrigation gives leaves more water then they actually need . This hypothesis then was further developed by AgriHouse brands as they created sensors to be installed on leaves that determine the amount of water that particular leaf requires.  

The wonders of intelligence and handwork is highlighted beutifully on martian as matt demon has to be both resourcefull and patient in order to survive. Thats enough of me giving the plot away but it goes to show what the human is capable off if his back is against the wall and with further developments technology space does not seem to far away.  

This blog post was adapted from LEDinside "How Astronauts Might be Able to Grow Martian Potatoes with NASA Lighting Technology" 08/06/2015

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