Japanese Astronaut to Harvest Cucumbers On International Space Station


Photo by OakleyOriginals via Flickr CC

Considering the recent hubbub over cucumbers infected with E. coli in Europe, it's not surprising some folks might consider more, um, technological ways to grow them. A Japanese astronaut plans to harvest cucumbers aboard the International Space Station. According to PhysOrg, Satoshi Furukawa, is set to head to the ISS on Wednesday for six months in orbit, and growing cucumbers is on his to-do list for what to accomplish while up there. The cucumbers are part of an experiment to figure out if astronauts can grow and harvest their own food in space.

Indeed, if it is possible, it could mean enjoying the pleasures of fresh produce while up in space. The astronauts haven't yet been allowed to eat the cucumbers, and I'm curious to know if they're nearly as nutritious as cucumbers grown on earth.

In addition to the cucumbers, fellow Russian astronaut Sergei Volkov will plant tomatoes. Again, how nutritious these will be without all the organisms found in healthy, earthy soils or loads of sunlight is questionable. I'm definitely curious!

The tool used for growing the produce is HydroTropi, or "Hydrotropism and Auxin-Inducible Gene expression in Roots Grown Under Microgravity Conditions" according to NASA. The organization states, "In microgravity, roots grow latterly or sideways, instead of up and down like they do under Earth's gravitational forces. Using cucumber plants, investigators look to determine whether hydrotropic -- plant root orientation due to water--response can control the direction of root growth in microgravity. "

The cucumbers, once harvested, are to be frozen and will be examined when they're brought back to Earth. The hope for the experiment is that it will show researchers how to control directional root growth, and that, according to NASA, might lead to "significant advancements in agriculture production on Earth."

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Tags: Agriculture | Biology | Ecology

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