Duckweed May Be A Nutritious Food For Astronauts In Space

Pull up a chair in the astronaut cafe, according to a July 16 report on the website of popular Mechanics, a monthly magazine. What’s on the menu, you ask? Duckweed salad. Duckweed soup. Duckweed omelet.
Writing on the Conversation website, Barbara Demich-Adams, a professor of plant ecology and molecular biology at the University of Colorado at Boulder, said the small, protein-rich duckweeds could be the route to a nutritious diet in space.

NASA (NASA) and the California institute of technology, and the baylor college of medicine researchers at the Massachusetts institute of technology cooperation space transformation of health institute, Mr Bush – Adams, and its laboratory is used to research problem: a green leaves can use limited resources in the astronauts in the spacecraft which rich nutrition of plants grow?

Duckweed. Duckweed is a common plant found in ponds and fish tanks. It is also one of the fastest growing plants in the world and the most protein-rich. That’s good news for future astronauts who might be tasked with exploring the outer reaches of the solar system.

In addition, duckweeds actually help protect astronauts from the sun and cosmic radiation. The plant is rich in powerful antioxidants like lutein and zeaxanthin, which have been shown to reduce inflammation and support eye health — a critical issue for NASA astronauts.

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The tricky thing about growing duckweeds in space is creating the right conditions to maximise productivity and nutrient growth. Duckweed needs a lot of strong light to produce rich antioxidants. This could be a problem for astronauts.

For years, astronauts on the International Space Station have used their gardening skills to grow small amounts of leafy greens. Astronauts grew sunflowers, lettuce, Chinese cabbage and kale. NASA astronaut Scott Kelly famously photographed a bouquet of zinnias hovering 250 miles above the Earth.

In addition to the benefits these plants bring to the astronauts’ diet, taking care of the plants themselves provides a relaxing and fulfilling hobby for space travelers.

On Earth, some laboratories are tweaking plants’ genomes to adapt to growing in space. A team at Coldspring Harbor Laboratory has grown a cherry tomato that grows densely on stunted vines to save space.

Demich Adams and colleagues are exploring the best way to grow duckweed. First, they grew the plants in sterile water, and next they tried introducing different microbes into the environment.

The team also tested its limits by growing the light-loving plants under different light conditions. It turns out that even under low levels of light, duckweeds produce more zeaxanthin than similar plants do on the best days.