NASA researchers are set to begin a year-long research trip to investigate growing plants in Antarctica, one of the most extreme and remote regions of the world.
The team will use Earth’s southernmost continent to assess closed-loop life support systems that could benefit astronauts on future missions to the moon and Mars.
Researchers will investigate plant cultivation in isolated, confined and extreme (ICE) environments in the EDEN ISS greenhouse, which is managed by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) Institute of Space Systems.
This greenhouse is a sealed, closed-loop system, which uses LED lights to cultivate plants.
Over a nine-and-a-half-month period, the greenhouse produced nearly 268kg of fresh food, including cucumbers, lettuce and tomatoes, in a space of only about 12.5 square metres or about the size of an apartment bedroom.
While spending the winter in Antarctica, the team will be isolated and many of their challenges will be similar to long-duration missions in space.
NASA hopes the findings will help shape future research into space crop production.
International Space Station
These efforts complement NASA research in the International Space Station, where astronauts have conducted plant experiments in the veggie and the advanced plant habitat growth chambers.
NASA and its partners use the station to explore many of the challenges they will face when heading to Mars, including growing crops to supplement astronauts’ diets when they are millions of miles away from Earth.
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