Growing Carrots in Space
Fresh Food for Astronauts on Its Way - Chicago-
New research published in the Institute of Food Technologists Journal of Food Science has provided a way astronauts can grow their own gardens of health-enhancing fresh veggies, starting with carrot aboard their spacecraft.
Research indicates that astronauts will soon have their own gardens aboard the International Space Station with the ability to grow vitamin A-rich carrots in space, according to a study in the Journal of Food Science, published by the Institute of Food Technologists. Researchers from Tuskegee University in Alabama conducted a study targeted at finding a way to incorporate natural and fresh antioxidants into the diets of astronauts while travelling in space.
So why should carrots in particular be such an important part of astronauts' diets? Carrots are loaded with phytochemicals in the carotenoid family (highly pigmented fat-soluble compounds found in many fruits, grains, oils, and vegetables). Alpha, gamma and beta carotene, which is particularly plentiful in carrots, are that are transformed within the body into an active form of vitamin A. Among all foods, carrots have one of the highest carotenoid contents. They also contain a natural pigment known for provitamin A and have been associated with protection against cancer, cardiovascular diseases, cataracts and macular degeneration as well as enhancing the immune response.
Astronauts can be exposed to elevated levels of radiation, which might put them at risk for some types of cancer. Researchers believe that the addition of unprocessed, carotene-rich carrots carrots to their diets may help reduce the negative effects of radiation and cancer development.
In order to investigate ways to incorporate natural and fresh antioxidants into the diets of astronauts, researchers from Tuskegee University in Alabama grew carrots using hydroponics, a technology for growing plants in nutrient-enriched water instead of in soil.
In all, the scientists grew 18 different
varieties of carrots using two different hydroponic approaches. In one,
called the nutrient film technique (NFT), roots were exposed to a
nutrient solution held inside a plastic film trough. The second method,
known as the microporous tube membrane system (MTMS), involved
planting carrots in nutrient tubes embedded into a material dubbed Turface
which is similar to crushed clay.
Seventy days after planting, all the carrots were harvested and tested for moisture, fat and carotene content as well as for colour and texture. The researchers also had consumer volunteers test the hydroponically grown carrots.
The group evaluated the colour, crunchiness, sweetness,
fibrousness and blandness of each of the 18 different carrot types grown
using NFT and MTMS. The volunteers also told the scientists which carrot
they preferred overall.
The results showed that all the hydroponically grown carrots had similar moisture content and contained close to the same amount of carotenes. However, the hydroponic carrots grown using the MTMS method were most appealing to consumers, primarily because of their better color and more carrot-like appearance.
Lead researcher A.C. Bovell-Benjamin stated, “The Nevis-F carrot cultivar grown using the NFT method had the highest carotenoid content and acceptability among consumers, and therefore, it will be the most likely choice for inclusion in NASA’s food system.”
Carrots in Space (2)
Yes you read it right - here is STS-43 Pilot Michael A. Baker, on the Atlantis Orbiter vehicle in 1991, seated at the forward flight deck pilots station controls, eating a free floating peanut butter and jelly sandwich while holding a carrot in his right hand.
Click on photo to see larger image.
And when they return from Outer Space, what do they ask for? ..... Carrots:
Associated Press Writer Mike Schneider explained on
Wed Apr 5, 2006:-
CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida. - After more than six months in orbit, returning U.S. astronaut Bill McArthur longs for two simple pleasures: a hot cup of fresh coffee and a carrot!!!.
"Life up here is an extraordinary experience ... but we miss the richness, the texture, the three-dimensional nature of living on our home planet," McArthur said Wednesday in an interview from the international space station with The Associated Press and the Houston Chronicle.
"I'm a big coffee drinker and I always like a nice hot cup of coffee in the morning," he said. "The coffee on board tastes good but it's all in bags."
McArthur will fly back Saturday on a Soyuz spacecraft, landing in the steppes of Kazakhstan. Also aboard will be Russian flight engineer Valery Tokarev and Marcos Pontes, Brazil's first man in space. McArthur and Tokarev have been at the space station more than six months. They are being replaced by Russian commander Pavel Vinogradov and U.S. flight engineer Jeff Williams, who arrived at the station with Pontes last Friday.
McArthur said he also is looking forward to biting into a crunchy salad and feeling "that sensation of pressing into a nice fresh lettuce or a nice raw carrot." This week, the crew tested a new method of preparing for spacewalks and produced sufficient data, even though the test was cut short, McArthur said.
Before beginning spacewalks, crew members usually have to breathe pure oxygen for several hours to purge their body of nitrogen and prevent a condition known as the bends. The new method could reduce that preparation time. McArthur and Williams had planned to spend eight hours sleeping in an airlock. But the test was stopped after five hours when two alarms went off while the astronauts slept. The alarms were triggered by a software glitch that gave an erroneous message about oxygen pressure.
"We were never in any danger," McArthur said. "There was never any problem with the atmosphere."
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