NASA Trip–Food For Mars

Team Mercury: Mr. Yi, Max, Andrew, Clare, Javier, Frances and Darcy

One of the coolest things we did at the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex was the Astronaut Training Experience. In the Botany Lab of “Mars Base 1,” we planted seeds, discussed what kinds of  food would last on Mars, and learned the effects of different colored lights on the growing process.

A trip to Mars is a 3 year mission:  6-9 months travel time, 18 months there, and another 6-9 months to return to Earth. Some food would be sent ahead of a time while some would be grown by astronauts.

A recent New York Times article A Menu for Mars? NASA Plans to Grow Chiles in Space by Sarah Mervosh  talks about food on Mars.

Scientists are working on building a garden in space. The goal is to grow fresh produce to supplement existing packaged foods.

NASA has already harvested a variety of edible leafy greens, grown without earthly gravity or natural light. Soon, researchers plan to expand to a more difficult crop, Española improved chiles, in their quest to answer one of the most pressing questions of a Mars mission: How will astronauts get enough nutritious food to survive years in the unforgiving depths of space?

Scientists believe the project, if successful, could open the door to growing similar crops in space — think tomato plants and strawberries — and perhaps eventually to more advanced foods, like potatoes.

“This is the most complex crop we have done to date for food purposes,” said Matthew W. Romeyn, who is leading the pepper experiment for NASA.

The peppers are being tested on Earth, he said, and could be sent to space as early as next spring.

Scott Kelly, a retired astronaut who set an American record in 2016 when he returned after spending 340 days in space, said he received a shipment of fresh fruit and vegetables every few months while on the International Space Station. But that would not be possible on a trip to Mars.

“It’s not like you can just run out to the store,” he said. “To have fresh food, it helps with nutrition. It also helps with morale.”

No matter how many options there are, packaged food alone would not be enough to fuel a mission to Mars.

Certain vitamins break down over time, leaving astronauts at risk of inadequate nutrition, said Gioia D. Massa, a scientist who works on space crop production for NASA.

“We don’t really have a food system that we are confident will be good for the entire duration of a Mars mission,” she said. “We feel plants are a very good way to help solve that problem.”

More recently, NASA harvested red romaine lettuce, which had been nurtured under the purplish, LED lighting of a special vegetable garden known simply as “Veggie.”

If this space gardening plan works, scientists say, it could help combat “menu fatigue” among astronauts, who typically lose weight while spending months in space.

Aside from nutrition, gardening has another big benefit.

Maintaining a garden could also serve as a hobby for crew members during monotonous months. “It’s kind of like, why do people like flowers?” Mr. Kelly said. “When you are living in an environment that is very antiseptic or laboratory-like, or on Mars, it would be pretty devoid of life with the exception of you and your crewmates. Having something growing would have a positive psychological effect.”

MVIMG_20190630_154808
Placing our plants under blue and red lights.

 

NASA Trip: Rocketry

Kennedy Space Center Visitors Complex

What makes perfect sense to build at the  Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Complex? Rockets, of course!

Hon, did you ever build rockets as a kid? My brother built model rockets, and we’d set them off in a field behind our elementary school. One time, we couldn’t figure out where one of his rockets landed. We searched and searched and never found it, but relished that rocket’s trajectory–it went higher than all the others.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Javier, Mr. Yi, Max, Andrew, Clare and Frances.

NASA Trip–Vehicle Assembly Building

Even though we were told the Vehicle Assembly Building covers 8 acres, the enormity of the building didn’t hit home until we walked inside. Then, it was like looking up inside a skyscraper!

Top Ten Fun Facts About NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building

  1. The VAB is part of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and was designed so that the Saturn V and Space Shuttle could be assembled and stacked vertically onto the Mobile Launch Platform.
  2. Construction for the Vehicle Assembly Building was completed in 1966.
  3. At 525 feet tall, the VAB is the largest single story building in the world.
  4. The American flag painted on the VAB as part of the 1976 United States Bicentennial celebrations was the largest in the world at that time.
  5. On the American flag, each star is 6 feet tall, each stripe is 9 feet wide, and the blue field is the size of a regulation basketball court.
  6. 4,225 pilings were driven down 164 feet to bedrock with a foundation consisting of 30,000 cubic yards of concrete.
  7. Inside the building, there are four high bays where rockets can be assembled.
  8. The doors to the VAB are the largest in the world at 456 feet (139.0 m) high, and take 45 minutes to completely open or close.
  9. The VAB has its own weather! Since the building’s interior volume is so vast, humid air rises, moisture condenses and forms on surfaces, and the condensations falls down, like rain.
  10. The building has been used as a backdrop in several Hollywood movies including Marooned, SpaceCamp, Apollo 13, Contact to name a few.
Team Mercury

Source: Wikipedia