Starting in December, NASA will begin producing its own food in orbit for the first time ever, according to a new report in Modern Farmer. Called the Vegetable Production System (or VEGGIE for short), the minimal rig will accommodate six romaine lettuce plants grown under pink LED lamps, ready for consumption in just under a month.
Naturally, the growth will be taking place in zero-gravity conditions, but after extensive testing on weightless horticulture, NASA is confident the lack of gravity will not impede growth. A larger concern is the spaceborne microbes that may develop during growth, so the lettuce will undergo an extensive testing regimen before astronauts chow down. If the program is successful, it could be easily scaled up to provide a lasting supplement to the ISS food supply. It's a first step towards the long-standing dream of a self-sustaining space settlement — but NASA's eyes are also on more immediate goals, hoping to defray the $10,000 per pound it costs to ship food into space.