CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — As of Monday morning, the crew at the International Space Station has some new equipment – and some new seeds to plant.
A SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft docked at the ISS on Sunday, exactly one day after it launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral.
Among the other items onboard are seeds to grow tomatoes. The crew says they want to start producing fresh food in space.
"A continuous source of nutritious food is essential for long-duration exploration missions, and the typical pre-packaged astronaut diet may need to be supplemented by fresh foods produced in space," officials with NASA explain on the agency's website. "Researchers have been testing a plant growth unit on station known as Veggie and have successfully grown a variety of leafy greens. Veg-05, the next step in that work, focuses on growing dwarf tomatoes."
According to CNN, the tomatoes will "grow under two different light treatments to measure the impact on the number of tomatoes that can be harvested as well as the plant's nutritional value and taste."
As a control experiment, Red Robin tomatoes will reportedly be grown on Earth. The growth of the two crops will be compared to one another to measure the effects of a "zero-gravity environment."
The tomatoes planted in space will be grown inside small bags called "plant pillows" which are installed in the Vegetable Production System on the space station, the media outlet explains.
“Tomatoes will be a new adventure for us on the veggie team, trying to figure out how to keep these thirsty plants well watered without overwatering,” Gioia Massa, NASA’s space crop production scientist, told CNN.
The tomatoes will reportedly be ready for a taste test as early as spring.