Is working for NASA a stressful job

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For the first time, astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) ate lettuce leaves grown in space. The astronaut Scott Kelly and two colleagues toasted the lettuce leaves on Monday and tried the greens, refined with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The historic bites were broadcast live on the television station of the US space agency NASA.

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NASA scientists see the salad tasting around 400 kilometers above the earth as a further step for a manned mission to Mars. In the future, astronauts could grow vegetables on their journey through space and thus partially cover their own food supplies. Fresh fruits and vegetables like blueberries, tomatoes and lettuce could help improve mood and protect against radiation in space, said NASA scientist Ray Wheeler.

Seed "activated" in July

The astronauts had grown the red romaine lettuce in a special grow box called Veg-01, which the space freighter "Dragon" from the US company SpaceX had brought to the ISS in April. Kelly "activated" the planted seeds on July 8th, and it took 33 days to harvest.


Astronaut Scott Kelly: Selfie with salad the day before the tasting

Astronaut Steve Swanson had already activated lettuce seeds on a nutrient cushion on the ISS in May of last year. Like all vegetables grown on the ISS so far, these samples were sent back to Earth and examined. According to NASA, microbiological tests have shown that the salad is suitable for consumption.

Gardening is good for the soul

The plants on the space station grew under red, blue and green light from LED lamps. "Blue and red wavelengths provide the minimum amount of energy required for plant growth," says NASA researcher Wheeler. Because of this, the lettuce looks purple to pink in photos in its little greenhouse. According to Wheeler, the weaker green LEDs are primarily there to give the plants a more appetizing appearance.


This animation by NASA shows what a greenhouse could look like on the surface of a planet

In addition to the nutritional aspect, NASA is also investigating to what extent gardening in space is good for the psyche of the astronauts. Especially on long flights - for example as part of the manned Mars mission - pulling vegetables could increase the well-being of the mission participants and offer them a meaningful pastime. According to NASA, gardening is also a good change from the stressful job on a space station. "Greenhouses will play an important role on long research flights," says NASA expert Gioia Massa.

Window cleaning on the Russian ISS module

Meanwhile, two Russian cosmonauts have left the ISS for a space walk. The cosmonauts Gennady Padalka and Michail Kornienko spent around six and a half hours in space doing maintenance work on the ISS. This also included cleaning the windows on the Russian module of the space station, as the Russian space agency announced.

Padalka and Kornienko are also supposed to assemble a special railing for work on the “Zvezda” module. There are currently three Russians, two Americans and one Japanese working at the Outpost of Humanity.