Space Station Sunday: Snacks In The Stars

Good evening, space fans!  Here's what was up on the ISS this week.

Space gardening is taking off: an illustration of future advancements
for the space station's lettuce-growing lab experiment.
(Image courtesy

This week, after years of research on space farming, a batch of red lettuce grown inside the ISS will be sampled by astronauts Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren.  While another crop of the red lettuce was previously grown and sent back to earth to check for contaminants, this crop has been entirely grown, tended to, and harvested aboard the ISS (science said it's safe.)

The seeds are sent up in plant pillows that contain nutrients and fertilizer, which are then cared for by the astronauts after being placed beneath LED lights.  Various wavelengths have proven more effective for plant production.

"Blue and red wavelengths are the minimum needed to get good plant growth," explained Dr. Ray Wheeler, lead for Advanced Life Support activities in the Exploration Research and Technology Programs Office at Kennedy Space Center. "They are probably the most efficient in terms of electrical power conversion. The green LEDs help to enhance the human visual perception of the plants, but they don't put out as much light as the reds and blues."

Space salad fixings.
(Image courtesy

The leafy greens are just the first part of a larger initiative to be able to have astronauts grow their own food for long-duration spaceflight. "There is evidence that supports fresh foods, such as tomatoes, blueberries and red lettuce are a good source of antioxidants. Having fresh food like these available in space could have a positive impact on people's moods and also could provide some protection against radiation in space," Wheeler said.

More details of the experiment are available from NASA.  Their copiously informative PDF on Space Biology has also recently been released.

Down on Earth, Typhoon Soudelor was in full force, with winds up to 160 miles.  The typhoon attacked the Pacific Ocean near China and Taiwan this week.

It's like a mosh pit for molecules.
(Image courtesy

The typhoon did not have any effect on the station itself, except for probably distracting the astronauts for a while to look at how awesome it was.

Don't worry, it can't drag away the Soyuz spacecraft from way down there.
(Image courtesy

Recently-arrived astronaut Kjell Lindgren has been working with colleague Kimiya Yui of JAXA (the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency) to practice the procedures they will use to grapple a Japanese supply craft to the station.  The HTV-5 supply ship is due up in two weeks and will be snagged from the sky using the station's exterior robotic gripper-limb, the Canadarm-2.

Lindgren, a rookie ISS crewman, has also now got the micro-gravity thing down...
...well, up...or sideways...
(Image courtesy

Veteran cosmonauts Commander Gennady Padalka and Mikhail Kornienko prepared to conduct tomorrow's extravehicular activity (spacewalk.)  The two reviewed timelines and procedure, secured equipment to their space suits, and generally made sure everything was in good condition before they exit the Pirs airlock tomorrow just after 10 AM for the vacuum of space.  You can watch them live on NASA TV starting at 09:45 AM EST.  

Their tasks tomorrow will include installing gap-spanners on the station's exterior (to aid with mobility while conducting maintenance), installing antenna fasteners, replacing an old antenna, washing the windows, and photographing the general condition of the Russian segment of the ISS.  They will also retrieve the Obstanovka Experiment, which has been left outside the ISS since 2013 and will shed light on how plasma in low earth orbit affects the station. 

Commander Padalka is ready for space action tomorrow.
(Image courtesy

Finally, while Scott Kelly was also involved in scrubbing spacesuit coils, participating in biomedical science, and preparing to ingest humanity's first space crops, he also managed to find time to take some cool images of Earth.

"The thing about abstract art: it appears not of this world. The thing about #EarthArt: it is our world."
-Scott Kelly
(Image courtesy Scott Kelly /

"This desert reminds me of the textured walls of the 70s. Anyone else remember this?"  -Scott Kelly
(Image courtesy Scott Kelly /

That's all for this week, space fans!  We'll see you next this space!

"Tomorrow we'll eat the highly anticipated veggie harvest onboard the International Space Station!
But first, lettuce take a selfie. #YearInSpace"  -Scott Kelly
(Image courtesy Scott Kelly /

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