Beans to be next vegetable on astronauts' menu by 2021

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OSLO, Jan. 15 (Xinhua) -- Having successfully harvested fresh lettuce in space in 2015, astronauts are expected to see beans on their menu by 2021 thanks to high-tech planters developed by Norwegian researchers.

A technical workshop at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) developed the model of the planter box for producing food in space, said Silje Wolff, a plant physiologist at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Space at NTNU Social Research.

"The dream of every astronaut is to be able to eat fresh food - like strawberries, cherry tomatoes or anything that provides a taste explosion," Wolff said in a press release published on NTNU's website last week.

"Someday that will certainly be possible. We envision a greenhouse with several varieties of vegetables," she added.

The longest stays at the International Space Station have been six months. People traveling to Mars will need to be prepared to stay in space for at least a year. Thus, developing a biological system in which astronauts can grow plants during long space journeys is needed.

Wolff has just completed an experiment that used artificial soil made from lava rock to grow lettuce for space. But she said the goal is to grow plants directly in water with the precise amount of nutrients, gas and air required so that all the water and food can be recovered.

Besides enriching diet, Wolff said growing plants in space can also boost astronomers' appetite and provide physiological comfort.

"Vacuum-packed food doesn't really remind you of food," Wolff said. "Having something fresh that triggers the appetite and the right receptors in the brain is important." Enditem

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