SpaceX delivered a new shipment of supplies to the International Space Station this weekend after bad weather at the launch site forced the company to call off its first attempt.
The mission took off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida around 2:20 p.m. ET on Saturday. The original launch date was Tuesday.
The plethora of supplies on board includes a pair of new solar panels for the space station, dwarf tomato seeds and a range of science experiments. There will also be treats for the astronauts on the space station, such as ice cream and Thanksgiving dishes such as spicy green beans, cranberry apple desserts, pumpkin pie and candy corn.
The solar panels will be installed outside the floating laboratory during spacewalks scheduled for November 29 and December 3. They will give the space station a power boost.
SpaceX has launched more than two dozen resupply missions to the space station over the past decade as part of a billion-dollar deal with NASA. This launch comes in SpaceX’s busiest year yet, with more than 50 operations to date, including two astronaut missions.
The cargo on board includes a number of health-related items, such as the Moon microscope kit. The hand-held portable microscope allows astronauts to collect and transmit images of blood samples to flight surgeons on the ground for diagnosis and treatment.
Tomatoes in space
Nutrients are an important part of maintaining good health in space. But there is a shortage of fresh produce on the space station compared to the prepackaged meals astronauts eat during their six-month stay on the space station. low Earth orbit.
“It’s fairly important to our exploration goals at NASA to not only be able to provide the crew with nutrition, but also to consider different kinds of plants as sources of nutrients that we would have a hard time sustaining during the long journeys between distant destinations like Mars and so on. said Kirt Costello, chief scientist at NASA’s International Space Station Program and deputy manager of the ISS Research Integration Office.
Astronauts have grown and tasted different varieties of lettuce, radishes and peppers on the International Space Station. Now the crew members can add some dwarf tomatoes – specifically Red Robin tomatoes – to their list of space-grown salad ingredients.
The experiment is part of an effort to provide continuous production of fresh food in space.
The dwarf tomato seeds will be grown under two different light treatments to measure the impact on the number of tomatoes that can be harvested, as well as the nutritional value and taste of the plants. Red Robin tomatoes will also be grown in soil as a control experiment. The two crops will be compared to measure the effects of a zero gravity environment on tomato growth.
The space tomatoes will be grown in small bags called plant cushions installed in the Vegetable Production System, known as the Veggie Grow Room, on the space station. The astronauts will regularly water and care for the plants.
“Tomatoes will be a new adventure for us on the vegetarian team as we try to figure out how to properly water these thirsty plants without overwatering,” said Gioia Massa, NASA’s space crop production scientist and principal investigator of the tomato research.
In the spring, the tomatoes are ready for their first taste test.
The crew expects tomato harvests 90, 97 and 104 days after the plants start to grow. During taste tests, the crew evaluates the taste, aroma, juiciness and texture of the tomatoes grown with the different light treatments. Half of each tomato crop is frozen and sent back to Earth for analysis.
Growing plants on the space station not only provides the opportunity for fresh food and creative taco nightsit can also improve the mood of the crew during their long spaceflight.
Surveys will monitor astronauts’ moods as they care for and interact with the plants to see how tending to the seedlings improves the crew’s experience amid the space station’s isolation.
The hardware is still in development for greater crop production on the space station and eventually on other planets, but scientists are already planning which plants will grow best on the moon and Mars. A team earlier this year successfully grew plants in lunar soil that included samples collected during the Apollo missions.
“Tomatoes are going to be a great crop for the moon,” Massa said. “They’re very nutritious, very tasty, and we think the astronauts will be very excited to grow them there.”
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