June 6, 2011

ISS Mission To Include A Vegetable Garden

Growing fresh vegetables may be the next great experiment in orbit aboard the International Space Station (ISS), reports the Associated Press (AP).

Japanese astronaut and doctor Satoshi Furukawa will be growing cucumbers as part of ongoing studies on how future space explorers will be able to grow their own food.

"We wish we were able to eat the cucumbers, but we have not been allowed," Furukawa said at a news conference in reference to the recent E. coli outbreak blamed on contaminated vegetables that has killed 22 and sickened more than 2,200.

Japan has been a leader in raising culinary standards in orbit. Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi, who is in Baikonur escorting Furukawa's family, even made his own sushi while on the space station last year.

Russian cosmonaut Sergei Volkov will be planting tomatoes and joked that he hoped astronauts might be granted permission to prepare a salad. He added that "to be honest, what I would really like is fried potatoes."

In preparation for their upcoming flight to the ISS, crew members are in strict isolation at Russia's Baikonur launch facility in Kazakhstan to avoid exposure to infection. Furukawa, Fossum and Volkov sat behind a plate of protective glass as they talked about the highlights of their upcoming mission.

A native of South Dakota, 53-year-old astronaut Michael Fossum is the oldest member of the outbound crew and has been closely involved with the design and assembly of the ISS over its history. "(I) helped design the space station, I helped build it on two assembly flights, and now to have the opportunity to live there is just amazing," he said.

The American said he was ready for the heavy workload that will come with being in orbit as the US shuttle Atlantis makes its final voyage to the space laboratory in July. "There is always an adaptation time when we get there, but we are going to hit the ground running. We have to," he said.

Fossum said that while the shuttles had completed their purpose of helping to assemble the space station, "we are going to miss the shuttle's capabilities, because ... they are awesome and unmatched."

The grounding of the shuttles will leave Russia's Soyuz spacecraft as the only means of ferrying crew to the station and back to Earth. The upcoming launch will be the second for an updated Soyuz space craft that has expanded cargo capabilities.


On the Net: