When astronaut Don Pettit was at the International Space Station (ISS), he successfully grew Zucchini (one type of vegetable). This inspired NASA to farm vegetables in space. But are the space-grown vegetables safe to eat? Well, according to Russian scientists, space-grown vegetables are safe to eat.
There is a greenhouse called Lada at the ISS. It has removable “root modules,” in which astronauts are able to grow several generations of crops before the modules’ nutrients are used up. At that point, the astronauts send the modules back to Earth for analysis. Biologists on Earth examine the modules to see if any harmful microbes have grown on them. They also check the modules and the plants’ leaves for contaminants which may come from the space station’s environment.
However, lately Russian news agency RIA Novosti has reported that Russian scientists have verified several space-grown plants. The space-grown edibles include peas, dwarf wheat and Japanese leafy greens. According to Margarita Levinskikh, one of the scientists who has been working on verifying whether or not space-grown plants are safe to eat, “The plants have been very developed, absolutely normal and did not differ a lot from the plants grown on Earth.”
Another scientist Bruce Bugbee, who is a professor at Utah State University and has worked on studies of food grown in space has said, “These are the same types of tests we routinely conduct on the food grown on Earth. We have also gotten experience with the astronauts and cosmonauts eating the fresh food they grow and not having problems.”
But RIA Novosti has also reported that Lada needs some “repairs” now. Once it is repaired, astronauts will plant it with rice, tomatoes and bell peppers, none of which have been grown in space before.