NASA seeks way to grow crops in space

Science

02 Jul 2019

NASA's new contest seeks a way to grow space garden

In a bid to sustain the future of humanity in space, NASA is calling experts from different industries to come up with solutions to grow fresh crops and vegetables in microgravity.

The agency has launched a contest where participants would have to produce and showcase systems that can grow crops without unlimited soil, gravity or sunlight.

Here are the details.

Contest

Growing food in space is critical for deep space missions

Growing food in space is critical for deep space missions

Space travel relies on human survival and the most basic requirement for survival is food.

Yes, you can load a spacecraft with canned and packaged food items, but that may not work for deep space missions where one has to spend months/years traveling to a particular destination.

Now, this is why NASA is looking for advanced solutions to grow crops on the spacecraft itself.

Contest

'Growing Beyond Earth Maker Contest' to tackle food production problems

While plants like lettuce have been grown on ISS, NASA wants to make the whole planting and harvesting process efficient and end the dependence on gravity, unlimited soil, and sunlight.

These are the fundamental problems that the agency aims to solve with the "Growing Beyond Earth Maker Contest" - a challenge launched in partnership with Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Miami.

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Details

What you have to do in the contest

As part of the contest, the agency is calling experts from biospace, engineering, agriculture and even manufacturing to come up with crop production and sustainability solutions.

Specifically, the agency wants the participants to design a "3D growing space" - spanning 50-centimeter cube - for fresh plants/vegetables as well as an automated planting and harvesting system for it.

Application

High school and college students can also apply

The contest has been divided into three categories: professional, college and high school.

For every category, the participating teams will have to submit their design by February 3, 2020.

The submissions will be reviewed by NASA's engineers and botanists who will select 15 teams for the second phase involving testing and prototyping; the concept chosen from this phase will be considered for future missions.

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