Small seeds pave the way for farming in space

As the rocket for the Orbital ATK lifts off a robotic Cygnus Cargo Spaceship to reach the International Space Station on Monday, it will also be lifting off seeds that could pave the way for farming in space in due course of time. Presently the timing of the liftoff is set for 4:39 am on Monday. The launching will be done from the NASA’s Wallop Flight Facility which is located in Virginia provided the weather is suitable for the takeoff. NASA will start cove raging the procedure from 1 am PT.

As per the reports it is expected that at least 7200 pounds of supplies will be lifted along with the rocket. Such materials would include various equipment, experiments, and other miscellaneous instruments. Among such elements, the smallest payload will consist of seeds for the Final Frontier Plant Habitat. It is a NASA program that involves renowned researchers from the Washington State Universities, Pacific North West National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory and the University of New Mexico. The project cost is quite astonishing and the fund raised is close to $2.3 million.

This automatic habitat was brought during the early cargo resupply mission and was kept to initiate the planting process. The astronauts are waiting for the Cygnus cargo to arrive. One it does so, the scientists will start working on germinating the plants to find out which variety of seeds grow the best in a weightless situation. Mr. Norman Lewis who is the project leader of this mission has said that whatever might be the working condition, be it for colonizing planets or long-range space tourism or establishing a station in space, food and air is very much crucial for long-term survival.

This is not the first time that scientists have carried out such experiments. Earlier scientists had conducted the Veggie experiment as a result of which they were successful in growing lettuce for the space station crew. 

In this case, the scientists have the target to grow six different types of Arabidopsis. It is a flowering plant which is similar to the variants of cabbage and mustard. Out of the six options, five of them are genetically created to find out how the plants capture carbon or how their ability to produce lignin is affected. Lignin is a fibrous substance that gives the structural support for the growth of the plants.