Space exploration is one of humankind’s greatest achievements. From the first human entering space, walking on the moon, to creating the first space station and the many additional advances, exploring space is fascinating to all. Mankind’s next major goal is to sustain life on Mars. The goal is to be able to send astronauts to Mars in the 2030s, and would consist of a six-month trip to get there. A very important fact to note; this is a one-way trip.
Although astronauts could be sent with freezed-dried foods to get to Mars, they would need to be able to grow vegetables to sustain themselves for the additional time they would be there. In addition to needing food for nutrition, experts believe eating vegetables like romaine lettuce can help to reduce the effects of radiation exposure in space. Being able to grow food in space would also save money and more importantly weight, which means that less fuel would be needed for the voyage. But one question remains; how do humans go about growing food in space?
In 2014, a plant growth system called VEGGIE was developed in Madison, WI. In VEGGIE, there are plant pillows that help plants to grow properly in space. Since there is zero gravity in space, plants tend to grow in multiple directions, but within VEGGIE there are bags of dirt, fertilizer, and nutrients prepared with wicking material to soak up water and help the roots grow uniformly in a downward orientation. That is obviously an important attribute of the system, but the most difficult challenge is replicating sunlight within this environment. To do this, the system uses red, blue and green LED lights that illuminate the plants and work on specific wavelengths to provide the plants the energy they need to grow. Without these LED lights, these plants simply would not grow. In order to maintain the light distribution and light wavelength necessary for a successful growing environment, tailored reflectors are used to not only shape the light, but maintain the wavelength to ensure maximum productivity. And there you have it, LED lights in conjunction with tailored reflectors for growing food in space.
Whether you are designing or prototyping your reflector project, RCI can help by providing solutions to fit your needs. We manufacture reflectors for medical, lighting, architectural and of course aerospace industries. Let RCI know how we can make your next project easier by utilizing our contact form or calling us directly at 866.276.6242.
If you would like to learn more please feel free to visit https://www.nasa.gov/content/VEGGIE-plant-growth-system-activated-on-international-space-station.