Validating Vegetable Production Unit (VPU) Plants, Protocols, Procedures and Requirements (P3R) Using Currently Existing Flight Resources (Lada-VPU-P3R) - 09.17.14
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Science Objectives for Everyone
Validating Vegetable Production Unit (VPU) Plants, Protocols, Procedures and Requirements (P3R) Using Currently Existing Flight Resources (Lada-VPU-P3R) is a study to advance the technology required for plant growth in microgravity and to research related food safety issues. Lada-VPU-P3R also investigates the non-nutritional value to the flight crew of developing plants on-orbit. The Lada-VPU-P3R uses the Lada hardware on the ISS and falls under a cooperative agreement between National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Russian Federal Space Agency (FSA).
Science Results for Everyone
Effective life support systems are critical to long space flight. Research has shown plants can grow and reproduce normally in space if given the proper environment. Adding greenhouses to a spacecraft will require redistribution of materials, increases in functional load, and new technical tasks such as plant selection and hardware development. Space- and ground-based experiments on this are underway. Also, despite the absence of observable and DNA changes, plants may experience stresses in space. Analysis revealed two-fold changes in more than 500 plant genes, demonstrating increased transcription of genes controlling cell death and perhaps oxidative stress on the International Space Station.
Utah State University, Space Dynamics Laboratory, North Logan, UT, United States
Institute for Biomedical Problems, Moscow, , Russia
Kennedy Space Center, Applied Technology Flight Integration, Cape Canaveral, FL, United States
Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD)
ISS Expedition Duration
October 2008 - March 2010
Previous ISS Missions
Several investigations have utilized the Lada hardware on the ISS, including Rasteniya and ORZS.
- Validating Vegetable Production Unit (VPU) Plants, Protocols, Procedures and Requirements (P3R) Using Currently Existing Flight Resources (Lada-VPU-P3R) will optimize hardware and plant growth techniques to allow maximum plant development to occur on the International Space Station (ISS).
- Lada-VPU-P3R will develop procedures and protocols to allow US astronauts to safely eat space-grown vegetables.
- Through surveys of previous and current space explorers, Lada-VPU-P3R will measure the non-nutritional benefits (stress relief, etc.) crewmembers experience working with plants in space.
- Lada-VPU-P3R uses the Lada hardware on the Zvezda module of the ISS.
Validating Vegetable Production Unit (VPU) Plants, Protocols, Procedures and Requirements (P3R) Using Currently Existing Flight Resources (Lada-VPU-P3R) identifies vegetable and flowering plant varieties that are most likely to be utilized to meet crewmember needs and that fit within the hardware resource limitations that exist on the International Space Station (ISS) and the ISS Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV). Lada-VPU-P3R also optimizes the support requirements for the Lada plant growth hardware and validates the technology readiness level of available cultural practices to provide reliable, low-cost, stimulating products for crewmember well being.
Lada-VPU-P3R identifies the threat levels and validates the procedures and protocols required to allow crewmembers to eat space-grown vegetables. This study also determines how to implement these procedures to maximize crew mental health benefits with minimum mission costs by quantifying the mass value that should be assigned to the non-nutritional effects of plants in spaceflight.
The Lada hardware design consists of a wall-mounted growth chamber that provides long-term, ready access for crewmember interaction. It provides light and root zone control but relies on the cabin environmental control systems for humidity, gas composition, and temperature control. Cabin air is pulled into the leaf chamber, flows over the plants and vents through the light bank to provide both plant gas exchange and light bank cooling. Lada was launched to the ISS in September 2002.
Lada-VPU-P3R will answer the following questions:
- What plants can tolerate cabin ethylene levels without adding significant cost?
- How well do seeds need to be protected to survive and flourish during interplanetary travel?
- Will seed-producing plants be stable over the 500- to 600-day missions?
- What procedures and hardware need to be in place to assure crew health on a long flight?
- How much vegetable yield is required for a measurable boost to crew response under the isolation and stress of long-term space missions?
- How should this stress-relieving resource be presented (open or closed, single crew tended or multiple access) to maximize its value?
- Is this resource of value to all crewmembers, or is there a subset who value the experience much more highly?
Plants not only provide food, but for many they provide comfort and relaxation, a diversion from the stress of required activities. For many people, plants provide significant non-nutritional benefits during long-duration spaceflight. These values are currently based only on anecdotal and untested observations that need verification. Part of the benefit may be a small fresh food source, which makes food safety issues important.
As less fertile land is available to grow food, alternative agricultural systems that efficiently produce greater quantities of high-quality crops will be increasingly important. Data from the operation of this investigation will advance greenhouse and controlled-environment agricultural systems and will help farmers produce better, healthier crops in a small space using the optimum amount of water and nutrients.
On orbit, the Lada-VPU-P3R needs to support the preservation of harvested plant matter at temperatures colder than -68 degrees C in the MELFI. There may be up to four frozen samples each with a 200-mL volume. The frozen plant matter must be returned from the ISS to Earth aboard the Space Shuttle. During return, the plant matter must be maintained at temperatures colder than -20 degrees C. Upon landing, the frozen samples should be delivered no later than return plus 6 hours (R+6 hours).
In addition to the frozen plant samples, four spent root modules must be returned. The root modules may be maintained at ambient atmospheric conditions. The root modules have a total mass of 6 kg like the frozen samples, the root modules need to be delivered no later than R+6 hours.
Root modules with seeds will be launched to the ISS on Russian Progress vehicles and transferred to the Zvezda module for the Lada-VPU-P3R investigation. Crewmembers will water the plant seeds and perform plant maintenance. Approximately two weeks prior to return, crewmembers will harvest plant material and transfer to the MELFI for freezing. Crewmembers will package and stow spent root modules. Frozen plant material will be transferred to a Space Shuttle freezer and the spent root modules will be transferred to an ambient middeck location. Post landing, frozen plant samples and ambient root modules will be delivered to the investigator for analysis.
Creation of an effective life support system (LSS) is one of the main obstacles engineers face in order to support long-duration space flight. Experiments with higher plants conducted on long-duration space exploration mission, showed plant organisms are capable of long-duration normal growth, full development and reproduction without deviations under real space flight environment. These results allow researchers to assume that properly engineered greenhouses are potential candidates for biological subsystem and may be included in the LSS for interplanetary space flight. Successful inclusion of greenhouse equipment in the spacecrafts will require a number of actions to the existing LSS, redistribution of material streams inside an LSS and increase in functional load. Furthermore, involvement of a greenhouse in a LSS of an interplanetary spacecraft requires a number of technical tasks to be cleared, such as selection of plant species and larger scale hardware development. To resolve the mentioned tasks, real space flight-based and ground-based experiments are being conducted in the frame of Russian Scientific Program (Sychev 2008).
Previous experiments revealed that plants are capable of normal growth, development and proliferation if they are provided with everything essential for life. However, the absence of phenotypic (observable characteristics) and genotypic changes (DNA changes) in plants grown in microgravity for several generations does not mean plants do not experience some stresses during these conditions. The genomic expression patterns analyzed revealed over 500 genes changed more than two-fold. The results demonstrate an increase in the transcription of eliminating genes and circumstantially indicate the presence of oxidative stress-causing factors on board the ISS. These factors are yet to be identified and their elimination could improve productivity (Shagimardanova 2010).
Sugimoto M, Oono Y, Gusev OA, Matsumoto T, Yazawa T, Levinskikh MA, Sychev VN, Bingham GE, Wheeler RM, Hummerick ME, Hummerick ME. Genome-wide expression analysis of reactive oxygen species gene network in Mizuna plants grown in long-term spaceflight. BMC Plant Biology. 2014; 14(1): 21 pp.
Shagimardanova E, Gusev OA, Bingham GE, Levinskikh MA, Sychev VN, Tiansu Z, Kihara M, Ito K, Sugimoto M. Oxidative Stress and Antioxidant Capacity in Barley Grown Under Space Environment. Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry. 2010; 74(7): 1479-1482. DOI: 10.1271/bbb.100139. PMID: 20622437.
Sychev VN, Levinskikh MA, Podolsky IG. Biological component of life support systems for a crew in long-duration space expeditions. Acta Astronautica. 2008; 63: 1119-1125. DOI: 10.1016/j.actaastro.2008.01.001.
Ground Based Results Publications
Sychev VN, Levinskikh MA, Shepelev El, Podolsky IG. Biological processes of the human environment regeneration within the Martian crew life support systems. Aviakosmicheskaia i Ekologicheskaia Meditsina (Aerospace and Environmental Medicine). 2003; 37(5): 64-70. [Russian]
Levinskikh MA, Sychev VN, Derendiaeva TA, Signalova OB, Podolsky IG, Avdeev S, Bingham GE. Growth and development of plants in a row of generations under the conditions of space flight (experiment Greenhouse-5). Aviakosmicheskaia i Ekologicheskaia Meditsina (Aerospace and Environmental Medicine). 2001; 35(4): 45-49. PMID: 11668959. [Russian]
Levinskikh MA, Sychev VN, Derendiaeva TA, Signalova OB, Podolsky IG, Gostimsky SA, Bingham GE. Growth, development and genetic status of pea plants cultivated in space greenhouse. Aviakosmicheskaia i Ekologicheskaia Meditsina (Aerospace and Environmental Medicine). 2005; 39(6): 38-43. PMID: 16536032. [Russian]
Space Dynamics Laboratory - Programs
Optimization of Root Zone Substrates for Reduced Gravity Experiments
NASA Image: ISS005E20305 - View of Cosmonaut Valery G. Korzun, Expedition Five mission commander, posing at the Rasteniya-2 with fully grown mizuna lettuce in the Service Module, Zvezda on the International Space Station.
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NASA Image: ISS006E27426 - View of Lada Leaf Chamber and Light Module on panel 218 in the Service Module, Zvezda during ISS Expedition 6. The Lada Greenhouse is used for growing vegetables in the Zvezda module of the ISS.
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NASA Image: ISS013E84325 - View of Spaceflight Participant (SFP), Anousheh Ansari, posing for a photo with barley in a root tray from the Lada greenhouse, which is part of the Rasteniya experiment.
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