Space food isn't all freeze-dried ice cream (as tasty as that would be). Astronauts need their veggies just like the rest of us, so NASA is sending Veggie to space. "Veggie" is the name of the thing in the picture above, which is a plant growth chamber (or "Vegetable Production System") that'll be a home for some outrageous variety of red romaine lettuce plants.
The plants will grow in little moisture pillows, and as they get bigger, the growth chamber can expand to make the most efficient use of the limited amount of space aboard the station. Instead of the sun, the chamber includes an array of red and blue LEDs, and the entire thing is temperature and humidity controlled to keep the lettucelings as happy and healthy as possible.
Rather than immediately fixing themselves salads, the ISS astronauts will have to send the mature lettuce back down to Earth, where it'll be tested for nutrition and safety. The latter is especially important because there is some risk that the space lettuce will turn anyone who eats it into lettuce monsters. Or that's what we're assuming, anyway. If Veggie does work out, astronauts on future long-duration space missions may be able to grow their own fresh food, and it may also lead to fancy new compact and efficient indoor gardens here on Earth.
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