As we push the boundaries of human space travel, we make decisions on what things are necessary for survival and what are luxuries.
The need for food, for sustenance, is unlikely to go away any time soon, but as Jamie Seidel writes in in Cosmos Magazine #97, there is more to fulfilling the human need for ‘our daily bread’ – or in this case, bacon – than just sustenance.
In “Craved in Space”, Seidel discusses the nuanced relationships humans have developed with food, including the experiences of astronauts locked into nutritious – but highly controlled – diets for weeks and months.
Part of sustaining a continuous, independent presence anywhere in space – be it Earth orbit, the Moon or even Mars – will require plants to be grown, tended and harvested locally. This is no mean feat, given the vastly different conditions in space and on other celestial bodies to those on the life-giving Earth.
There are a few interesting candidates – including a type of pond weed from Adelaide, Australia – and methods such as vertical gardening, hydroponics and aeroponics.
How can we adapt plants for a life in space, asks Seidel, especially given our dependence on them for so many aspects of our daily lives – diet, pharmacology, filtration and recycling, just to name a few.
And how can we adapt to inevitable evolutionary changes likely to happen to plants in a completely new environment? As Seidel notes, “they don’t want infestations of weeds on Mars. Nor fields of fungi”.
These are questions currently wide open for exploration as humanity steps out into new frontiers.
Cosmos Magazine #97 is available now at all good newsagents or Subscribe at comosmagazine.com and save up to $35.
Originally published by Cosmos as Plants in Space: the next gastronomical frontier
Clare Kenyon is a science journalist for Cosmos. An ex-high school teacher, she is currently wrangling the death throes of her PhD in astrophysics, has a Masters in astronomy and another in education. Clare also has diplomas in music and criminology and a graduate certificate of leadership and learning.
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