The Pick-and-Eat Salad-Crop Productivity, Nutritional Value, and Acceptability to Supplement the ISS Food System (HRF Veg) investigation is an innovative experiment that combines plant research, human organoleptic analysis, and behavioral research. The primary objective of the HRF Veg investigation is to develop a new vegetable component that can supplement the pre-packaged food system on the International Space Station (ISS) as a first step to bio-regenerative food production. In addition, with this experiment, scientists aim to collect additional human organoleptic and behavioral research data when plants are grown for other experiments.
In the week of Feb. 20, crew members aboard the International Space Station carried out several scientific investigations showcasing innovative research. Among the studies, they evaluated the viability of growing plants on the station to provide food in space, tested a robotic device’s hopping capabilities, and trialed an instrument designed to measure air particles. These experiments represent the ISS’s ongoing efforts to push the boundaries of scientific research in space and explore the potential of space-based technologies. With each investigation, the crew is advancing our understanding of space and bringing us closer to developing sustainable life support systems and enabling long-term human habitation beyond Earth.
Crew members play an essential role in the HRF Veg investigation, as they provide feedback on the fresh produce’s flavor, appearance, aroma, texture, and taste during an in-flight “taste test” after each harvest. In addition, to assess the psychological benefits of plants in space, participating crew members complete surveys before, during, and after the flight. The data collected through these surveys will help scientists understand how the cultivation and consumption of plants in space affect crew members’ moods and psychological well-being.
Apart from being an excellent source of fresh food for astronauts, plants grown in space can offer several countermeasure benefits. They can provide sensory stimulation, flavor, and texture variety to the pre-packaged ISS diet. Additionally, the hardware used for this experiment, which resembles a miniature greenhouse, could be adapted for horticultural therapy for elderly or disabled individuals and those who live without access to a yard and otherwise could not enjoy the benefits of fresh produce from a garden.
The HRF Veg investigation is crucial for future space exploration missions, such as missions to Mars. Such tasks require a fresh food supply to supplement pre-packaged crew meals. Scientists can develop a more sustainable food system supporting long-duration space missions by studying the productivity, nutritional value, and organoleptic acceptability of plants grown in orbit.
Image provided by NASA