Space crop

Published: Wednesday 15 January 1997

Spatial fields aboard Mir the first crop of wheat plants was recently harvested aboard Mir, the Russian space station, reports the us- based National Aeronautics and Space Administration ( nasa ). The plants which were grown through a complete life cycle, were a result of 'Project Greenhouse' wherein 32 plants of a super-dwarf wheat variety were grown in collaboration with Utah State University, Utah, Institute of Biomedical Problems Research Centre, Moscow and Space Research Institute of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, Sofia. Project scien tists said that the plants were allowed to develop at a normal growth rate and now seem to have matured fully to ensure the production of seeds. The harvest "demonstrates that the environment in space poses no obstacles to the biological components of a regenerative live support system", said David Bubenheim, project co-investigator at nasa 's Ames Research Centre in California.

The plants were grown in a greenhouse -- Svet -- and fluorescent lamps provided the light. The substrate material was enriched with plant nutrients and water was added to this material and transferred to the wheat seeds.

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