From: De Gruyter Open
Published October 19, 2017 11:40 AM

Space Greens Beat the Blues

Where people will go in the cosmos, plants will go. That’s the message of a paper entitled “Gardening for Therapeutic People-Plant Interactions during Long-Duration Space Missions” written by Raymond Odeh, and Charles L. Guy of the University of Florida (Gainesville) and published in the De Gruyter journal, Open Agriculture.

In the beginning of the space age, researchers sought to see if plants could survive in a zero-gravity atmosphere and scientific curiosity was the main driver of this research. However, the realization that it would be more cost effective and healthier to grow fresh fruits and vegetables on demand during a long space mission, rather than to rely on processed foods, also played a role. Once it was established that plants could survive, more experiments were conducted to see if they could be used in other ways, such as for purifying the air inside a spacecraft since plants consume carbon dioxide and produce oxygen and clean the air of pollutants. 

The paper reveals even more surprising results. Plants may also play a key role in maintaining the psychological well-being of space crews. The next frontier of space plant experimentation is to examine the psychological impact of plant life on astronauts. 

Space travel can cause sleep disorders, a reduction in energy, inattentiveness and difficulty in problem-solving, and even memory loss. It can cause people to be more hostile, act more impulsively and, despite the danger and excitement, is sometimes boring. Any of these conditions and problems can lead to dangerous, if not tragic outcomes.

Read more at De Gruyter Open

Image: NASA astronaut and Expedition 23 flight engineer, T.J. Creamer harvests a tissue sample from white spruce seedlings grown in the 2010 Canadian Space Agency 2 (APEX-CSA2) Advanced Plant Experiment in the Destiny laboratory of the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

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