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Space Farms part of NASA’s Big Plans

Growing a garden in Space is difficult, but having a green thumb isn’t simply a skill for astronauts—almost it’s a must. Plants have been grown on the International Station for a short but eventful history. It’s becoming increasingly important for astronauts to be able to meet their own dietary needs in Space as they come closer to long-term independence from Earth.

However, current initiatives to produce large-scale Space crops confront financial and logistical hurdles, as well as technological inadequacies. To overcome some of these limitations, a new research published Friday in the journal Frontiers in Astronomy and Space Sciences advocates for new improvements in automation, robotics, and even machine intelligence.

As pre-packaged food deteriorates over time and any resources sent from Earth to future lunar or Martian communities could take too long to arrive, it’s more practical to focus resources on keeping flight crews healthy in real time. However, NASA’s profound interest in astrobotany, or the study of how plants interact with a Space environment, originates in part from lessons learned from the history of piracy.

When brave explorers travelled large distances across the sea centuries ago, many died of scurvy, or a severe shortage of vitamin C. This important vitamin, which may be found in oranges, is an essential ingredient for good health. Scientists could construct a precise plant health monitoring system by employing a technique called hyperspectral imaging, which captures and processes a significant quantity of data from across the electromagnetic spectrum, according to the Frontiers paper.

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