A closer look at the space farming project
Until today, space research has focused on the behavior of seeds. Now the V3PO project takes this one step further into unexplored territory.
A journey to Mars and back can take almost two years. To provide fresh food for the whole mission, astronauts would need large quantities of seeds. But harvested seeds don't always grow true to the original plant and there's a risk that the plant characteristics could change from generation to generation. An alternative could be vegetative propagation: growing plants from cuttings. In contrast to seedlings, cuttings do not start with a root system, so Maria, Raphael and David are investigating whether they can build roots, shoots, and leaves in microgravity, without knowing which way is up and which way is down. If cuttings can grow under zero-gravity conditions, it would be a significant advance in finding ways to grow food in space.
Due to different temperature and humidity levels between the launch rocket and the ISS, bacterial or fungal contamination of the cuttings could occur. This is one area in which BASF is providing its expertise, knowledge – and products. BASF fungicides are helping to protect the plant cuttings from disease during the research period on the ISS, as well as on the flight from and back to earth.