For saving space and soil, this method also has several
other benefits, including no soil-borne diseases, no
weeds to pull and no soil to till, run-of-the-mill side
benefits of soil-less gardening.

Space Plants

Plants were first taken into Earth orbit in 1960 on two separate missions, Sputnik 4 and Discover 17 (for a review of the first 30 years of plant growth in space, see (Halstead and Scott 1990).

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NASA life support GAP technology with untreated beans (left) and biocontrol treated beans (right) returned from the Mir space station aboard the space shuttle – September 1997

On the former mission, wheat, pea, maize, spring onion, and Nigella damascena seeds were carried into space, and on the latter mission Chlorella pyrenoidosa cells were brought into orbit.

Plant experiments were later performed on a variety of Soviet, American, and joint Soviet-American missions, including Biosatellite II, Skylab 3 and 4, Apollo-Soyuz, Sputnik, Vostok, and Zond. Some of the earliest research results showed the effect of low gravity on the orientation of roots and shoots (Halstead and Scott 1990).

Subsequent research went on to investigate the effect of low gravity on plants at the organismic, cellular, and subcellular levels. At the organismic level, for example, a variety of species, including pine, oat, mung bean, lettuce, cress, and Arabidopsis, showed decreased seedling, root, and shoot growth in low gravity, whereas lettuce grown on Cosmos showed the opposite effect of growth in space (Halstead and Scott 1990). Mineral uptake seems also to be affected in plants grown in space. For example, peas grown in space exhibited increased levels of phosphorous and potassium and decreased levels of the divalent cations calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and iron (Halstead and Scott 1990).


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