Paula Cleggett-Haleim Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

(Phone: 202/453-1547) Jane Hutchison Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. (Phone: 415/604-4968) RELEASE: 90-82

June 14, 1990

MAKING FRESH VEGETABLES ON LONG-DURATION SPACE TRAVEL

The first working model of a "salad machine" that eventually will provide a variety of fresh vegetables for astronauts on long voyages is now growing its first crop at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. Dr. Mark Kliss, project manager and principal investigator, said one of the first things astronauts and submariners ask for, following days or weeks of eating freeze-dried or preserved foods, is fresh produce. "Our goal is to produce such a variety of fresh salad vegetables for consumption by the crews of Space Station Freedom and other long-duration missions," Kliss said. The presence of plants and the ability to "cultivate" a garden also can improve the crew members' morale by providing something for them to nurture and by offering a creative outlet during their free time, much like tending a garden on Earth, he said. Garden-variety plants such as leaf lettuce, carrots, radishes, onions, sprouts, tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers are

being considered for inclusion in the salad machine. Most candidate vegetables have very similar temperature, humidity, lighting and nutrient requirements, thus simplifying the environmental control system. Because of limited space, some plants will be smaller than the varieties commonly found on Earth.

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Tomato plants, for example, will be less than 12 inches high. And because there is no gravity, some of the vegetables will grow "upside down" or "sideways," although in the weightlessness of space there is no true "up" or "down." Kliss' goal is for the salad machine to produce three salads per person per week for a crew of four. It also will recycle the water transpired by plants back into the nutrient delivery system. Eventually, Kliss hopes the salad machine can use recycled water to grow plants and produce potable water for crew consumption. It also will furnish oxygen-enriched air to the cabin environment after particulates and excess water vapor are removed. Food production, carbon dioxide scrubbing, oxygen generation and water purification are key functions of the "bioregenerative" life support systems being developed by the Advanced Life Support Division at Ames. Project engineers also face formidable engineering constraints. The amount of space available is limited to a single standard space station rack of 36 inches by 41.5 inches by 80 inches, or about 28.2 cubic feet of growing volume. The machine must operate on less than a kilowatt of power, produce a minimal amount of waste heat and provide light for the plants.

A nutrient delivery system must be designed which can provide water and necessary nutrients to the growing plants, while keeping fluids in place in microgravity, or weightlessness of space. Kliss said that proper humidity will be maintained by recycling condensed water vapor, which also will decrease the amount of resupply water needed. The process of growing plants in the salad machine should be relatively simple. Seeds, contained in a cassette for ease of handling in microgravity, will be germinated for a few days. Once the seeds sprout, they will be placed in the plant growth chamber containing the nutrient delivery system. Kliss expects the activity of "planting" seed cassettes and harvesting mature plants to require 15-20 minutes of an astronaut's time every few days. By applying commercial hydroponic (soil-less) growing techniques, plant growth time from seed to harvest is much quicker than for field-grown counterparts. - more -3-

Kliss hopes to have the salad machine fully operational by Space Station Freedom's scheduled completion later this decade.

- end EDITORS NOTE: Available to the media only are 3 photographs of the "salad machine:" Black and White 90-H-464 90-H-465 90-H-466 Color 90-HC-441 90-HC-442 90-HC-443

Also available to the media are a line drawing of the design concept (90-H-468) and a video tape. Material can be obtained by calling NASA Headquarters Audio-Visual Branch, 202/453-8375.

NASA news releases and other NASA information is available electronically on CompuServe and GEnie, the General Electric Network for Information Exchange. For information on CompuServe, call 1-800-848-8199 and ask for representative 176. For information on GEnie, call 1-800-638-9636.

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