May 15, 2017 – NASA astronaut Jack Fischer collected the latest crop of Tokyo Bekana Chinese cabbage for the Veg-03 investigation. Some of this was consumed at meal-time, and the rest sealed for analysis back on Earth. Understanding how plants respond to microgravity is an important step for future long-duration space missions, which will require crew members to grow their own food. Astronauts on the station have previously grown lettuce and flowers in the Veggie facility.
Veggie provides lighting and necessary nutrients for plants by using a low-cost growth chamber and planting pillows, which deliver nutrients to the root system. The Veggie pillow concept is a low-maintenance, modular system that requires no additional energy beyond a special light to help the plants grow. It supports a variety of plant species that can be cultivated for fresh food, and for education experiments.
Crew members have commented that they enjoy space gardening, and investigators believe growing plants could provide a psychological benefit to crew members on long-duration missions, just as gardening is often an enjoyable hobby for people on Earth. Data from this investigation could benefit agricultural practices on Earth by designing systems that use valuable resources such as water more efficiently.
The Veggie system was developed by Orbital Technologies Corp. (ORBITEC) of Madison, Wisconsin, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sierra Nevada Corporation. ORBITEC and NASA have collaborated on the design and development of the Veggie system.