SpaceX launches tomato seeds, deliveries to the International Space Station

SpaceX is bringing a new batch of supplies to the International Space Station this weekend after poor weather at the launch site forced the company to abandon its first attempt.

The mission lifted off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida around 2:20 p.m. ET on Saturday. The original start date was Tuesday.

The abundance of supplies on board include a pair of new solar arrays for the space station, dwarf tomato seeds and a range of science experiments. There will also be treats for the astronauts on the space station, like ice cream and Thanksgiving dishes like spicy green beans, cranberry and apple desserts, pumpkin pie and candy corn.

The solar arrays will be installed outside the floating laboratory during spacewalks scheduled for November 29 and December 3. They will give the space station an energy boost.

SpaceX has launched more than two dozen resupply missions to the space station over the past decade as part of a multibillion-dollar deal with NASA. This launch comes amid SpaceX’s busiest year to date, with more than 50 operations to date, including two astronaut missions.

Cargo onboard includes a range of health-related items such as: B. the moon microscope kit. The portable, hand-held microscope allows astronauts to collect images of blood samples and send them to flight surgeons on the ground for diagnosis and treatment.

Tomatoes in space

Nutrients are a key component to maintaining good health in space. But fresh produce is scarce on the space station compared to the ready meals astronauts eat during their six-month stay in low-Earth orbit.

“For our exploration goals at NASA, it’s quite important not only to provide the crew with food, but also to look at different plant species as sources of nutrients that we would find difficult to feed on the long voyages between faraway destinations like Mars and.” So on,” said Kirt Costello, chief scientist for NASA’s International Space Station Program and deputy chief of the ISS Research Integration Office.

Astronauts have grown and tasted different types of lettuce, radishes and chillies on the International Space Station. Now, crew members can add some dwarf tomatoes — Red Robin tomatoes in particular — to their list of space-grown salad ingredients.

The experiment is part of an effort to provide continuous production of fresh food in space.

The dwarf tomato seeds are grown under two different light treatments to measure the effects on the number of tomatoes that can be harvested and the nutritional value and taste of the plants. As a control experiment, red robin tomatoes are also grown on Earth. The two cultures are compared to measure the effects of a zero-gravity environment on tomato growth.

The space tomatoes will be grown in small bags called plant pillows, which will be installed in the vegetable production system known as the veggie growth chamber on the space station. The astronauts will water and tend the plants frequently.

“Tomatoes will be a new adventure for us on the Veggie team as we try to figure out how to keep these thirsty plants well watered without overwatering them,” said Gioia Massa, NASA space crop production scientist and principal investigator on the tomato study .

In the spring, the tomatoes are ready for their first taste test.

The crew expects the tomato harvest 90, 97 and 104 days after the plants start to grow. During taste tests, the crew evaluates the taste, aroma, juiciness and texture of the tomatoes grown with the different light treatments. Half of each tomato harvest is frozen and returned to Earth for analysis.

Growing plants on the space station not only provides the opportunity for fresh food and creative taco nights, but can also improve the crew’s spirits during their long space flight.

Polls will track the astronauts’ moods as they tend to and interact with the plants to see how tending to the seedlings enhances the crew’s experience amid the space station’s isolation. SpaceX launches tomato seeds, deliveries to the International Space Station

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