The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) says it has successfully grown its very own batch of radishes on the International Space Station (ISS). The successful project took place last month when researchers were able to grow six packs of radishes in space. This is great news for scientists attempting to produce vegetables and fruits in environments with low levels of gravity.
NASA plans to send these radishes back to our planet in 2021 through the SpaceX commercial resupply services initiative. Much of the credit goes to NASA astronaut Kate Rubins who was able to harvest the radishes in space by growing them in an Advanced Plant Habitat in the ISS. It took less than a month — 27 days, to be precise — to grow the vegetable, which isn't surprising, given radishes are notoriously rapid growers.
Below you can see a time-lapse video of the project, which falls under NASA's Plant Habitat-02 experiment, available to the public on YouTube. Radishes are particularly useful for a study like this. For one, they're good for your health in moderation. Second, they're easy to grow. And because they carry similar qualities to another plant called the Arabidopsis (or "rockcress" which is a relation of cabbage and mustard) which astronauts already study in low gravity environments, radishes help to carry the academic research further.
Farmers in space — Growing food in space is delicate and time-sensitive work. As NASA explains, the ISS is where scientists, researchers, and astronauts gather to experiment with food and its cultivation and production, but it's delicate work. Astronauts conventionally rely on pre-packaged and freeze-friend foods for sustenance while in orbit. But, especially when it comes to extended durations, travel can be tricky and the supply of multivitamins becomes critical for the health of these extraterrestrial explorers.
To facilitate vegetable supply, the ISS has its own Vegetable Production System where plant growth is encouraged in environments with little to no gravity (or as NASA calls it, "microgravity").
In the ISS lab, researchers rely on light-emitting diodes (better known as LEDs) to guide and orient plant growth. The chamber for this particular garden glows with a magenta pink light, which is beneficial to plants as they need a mix of red and blue wavelengths for sustenance.
So far, NASA says that the ISS has been able to grow "three types of lettuce, Chinese cabbage, mizuna mustard, red Russian kale, and zinnia flowers." With radishes in the mix, astronauts' plates gets even healthier and more diverse.