If astronauts get to enjoy a salad of bush tomatoes and Warrigal greens on the International Space Station, it’ll be thanks to the efforts of Victorian school students.
This week budding citizen scientists from Catholic Regional College, Caroline Springs and Mount Lilydale Mercy College visited the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria to collect specially designed Growth Chambers (which replicate growing conditions in space) and to learn about plant data collection and Australian Bush Foods.
The students are the first in Australia to participate in Growing Beyond Earth, a program where schools help NASA discover nutritious and tasty foods for astronauts to grow and eat on the ISS.
It’s the ultimate STEM project (pun intended), bringing together botany and space science, and in the case of the Australian pilot, Indigenous knowledge. Oh, and the results are edible.
Professor Tim Entwisle, Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria spoke to Cosmos on the phone while standing among the Lemon Myrtle, wattle and Davidson Plum of the bush foods garden at Cranbourne.
But he says those shrubby plants are unlikely to be suitable for space. While delicious, they’d take too long to grow. “By the time you had wattle seed, you’d be back on Earth.”
Other Australian Bush Foods, like Warrigal greens and bush tomatoes, are much quicker and easier to grow, and could be among the species picked for the program.
Students from Catholic Regional College, Caroline Springs visited the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria to collect their Growth Chamber, learn about plant data collection and Austraian Bush Foods / Credit: Provided by Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria.
Fresh food helps astronauts improve nutrition and – because astronauts can experience food fatigue – it helps their overall health and wellbeing. Australian Bush Foods potentially offer unique… Source cosmosmagazine.com