Pak Choi on ISS
Astronauts on the International Space Station recently enjoyed a fresh supply of leafy greens, thanks in large part to the efforts of Expedition 64 crew member Michael Hopkins.
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission commander took the lead on conducting four Vegetable Production System (Veggie) experiments, with the last two wrapping up after an April 13 harvest. VEG-03K and VEG-03L tested a new space crop, ‘Amara’ mustard, and a previously grown crop, ‘Extra Dwarf’ pak choi. They were grown for 64 days, the longest leafy greens have grown on station.
The pak choi grew for so long that it began to flower as part of its reproduction cycle. Hopkin’s efforts in eclipsing the mark included using a small paintbrush to pollinate plant flowers. He decided on that approach after speaking with Kennedy’s Matt Romeyn, a space crop production project scientist and science lead on the four plant experiments. They discussed multiple options, including just letting the flowers self-pollinate.
Why is this experiment important?
This experimentation is important because fruit crops require pollination, and crews need to understand how the process works in microgravity and, eventually, in reduced gravity. Fruit will head to the station soon, when Kennedy sends pepper seeds to the space station later this year as part of the Plant Habitat-04 experiment.The plants were grown for the Veggie study, which is exploring space agriculture as a way to sustain astronauts on future missions to the Moon or Mars.