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Norwegians to experiment with growing veggies in space


Space agriculture

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(NaturalNews) Tomatoes and lettuce are common sights in food markets, farms and kitchens around the world, but now, they're being eyed by Norwegians as possible foods that will soon be grown in space.

The effort is an attempt to better examine how plant foods grow in space while also assessing ways to provide space travelers with oxygen and food. The project that will study the process -- which is expected to take about 10 years -- is referred to as TIME SCALE and will be led by experts at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Space (CIRiS) at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim.(1)

"One of the big challenges is to administer exactly the right amount of water and nutrients to the plants in such little gravity," said Kittang Jost, the project lead and research chief at CIRiS. Optimism is prevailing however, as they are determined to make progress that will align with other researchers' findings which suggest that a fully-functional closed ecosystem may be able to operate in space by 2050.(1)

Why grow food plants in space?

An article housed on NASA Quest, a site dedicated to educating others on the benefits of space exploration, stresses the importance of learning about plants in this manner. Its authors address the question of why it is necessary, stating that "Removing gravity for long periods of time allows new perspectives in the study of plants."(2)

Furthermore, they say lessons learned from such studies can help human life on Earth. "Why study plants in space?" authors Bonnie McClain and Tom Scott ask. "The discoveries made, lessons learned, and technologies developed from these investigations will benefit those of us on planet Earth as we unlock and utilize gravity's mysteries to enhance our journey beyond Earth's boundaries."(2)

In fact, the concept of studying food plants in space has been unfolding for a while. Margarita Levinskikh, a researcher at the Institute of Biomedical Problems, speaks to the success that Russian cosmonauts have had with the effort, noting that successful harvests of crops aboard the International Space Station have been deemed safe to eat.(3)

She describes Japanese leafy greens that have been grown and talks of future efforts that will include cultivation of bell peppers and tomatoes.

Proof that food security is dwindling fast

While some may feel that such efforts are a moot point, or that people might be better off studying situations on Earth rather than in environments where human population doesn't exist, it's important to understand that Earth's resources are quickly diminishing. Perhaps eyeing up other areas that can help sustain life is essential as this planet continues to undergo serious climatic changes and other devastating disruptions.

One only has to look as far as California, where statewide droughts of mass proportions have gravely impacted agriculture, water and overall food security. Other parts of the world, too, have been affected by lack of rainfall or problems due to groundwater depletion from methods such as irrigation.

While many factors impact food security, reports point primarily to water stress and reduction of arable land as well as weather radicalization that threatens to be more violent and unpredictable than the past.(4)

In fact, at the World Meteorological Organization conference in Montreal earlier this year, climate experts warned of serious weather changes that will undoubtedly create challenges for food security. The climate scientists claim that in the coming decades, wind turbulence for in-flight passengers is expected to double, and that there will be ocean waves that may reach 130-feet. Additionally, they say that extreme heat, drought and large amounts of snowfall will take place.(5)

Clearly, these predictions point towards a major shifting of, if not a downright collapse, in food security around the globe. From crops lost to changes in transportation that will likely need to be made in lieu of climatic changes, efforts such as growing food plants in space seem to be an option well worth exploring.

Sources:

(1) http://www.thelocal.no

(2) http://quest.nasa.gov

(3) http://sputniknews.com

(4) http://www.foodsecurity.ac.uk

(5) http://www.huffingtonpost.com

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