How astronauts can get a taste of steak in space

How astronauts can get a taste of steak in space


– When we send people to deep space, we can’t carry a ton of stuff with us. There’s only so much
room on a rocket, right? And, food takes up a lot of space. And, it can break down over time. But, one thing we can send with us are super lightweight
seeds to grow plants. That’s why we’re here
at Kennedy Space Center, to learn how to grow yummy food in space, and on other planets. (upbeat music) In order to grow plants,
you need soil, right? Well, there’s some problems with that. – Technically on the moon and mars it’s not really a soil. – Okay. – A soil, by definition,
has organic material in it. The surface of the moon and Mars doesn’t, so they’re really regolith. – It’s got nothing. – It’s crushed volcanic
rock for the most part. And, there’s components
in that, chemicals in that that are not conducive to plant growth. So, especially when we go to Mars, we’re gonna have to
figure out if we wanna use the martian regolith as a
medium to grow plants in. We’re gonna have to convert that regolith into a soil, a usable soil. – [Loren] Right, and
aren’t there some problems? – [Ralph] Yes. – [Loren] Already associated
with using that soil, isn’t it a little bit toxic? – [Ralph] Yeah, the
perchlorates that are in the martian soils are a real
problem for plant growth. – [Loren] Perchlorates are a type of salt. NASA’s Phoenix Lander and Curiosity Rover both found signatures
of the chemical on Mars. And, that’s not great news. High levels of perchlorates
are toxic to humans, which could make growing food
on the red planet problematic. But, NASA’s thinking of ways
to clean the perchlorates by washing them away
with chemical solutions. – There’s perchlorates in
the environment on earth, and their scientists
have already developed methods for remediating those
perchlorates using microbes. – Okay. – [Ralph] So, theoretically
we could go up there and use either chemical
or microbial solutions to mitigate the microbes. – So, at the end of the
day, it might just be better not to use soil at all,
than to actually try and clean the potentially toxic Mars soil. Of course, you can always
bring soil from Earth. But, that’s not really
a great option either because it weighs so much. NASA’s looking into other options for growing plants that don’t use soil. We have, you know, a basic soil here. But, picking it up, that’s pretty heavy. And, this isn’t even a very big box. – Well, even today in controlled
environment agriculture they’re getting away from using soil as a medium to grow plants in. They wanna go to things that are basically hydroponically grown, aeroponically grown. You wanna minimize the resources, even today on the ground,
to grow things in. So, we’re gonna be looking at using some of that type of
technology in spaceflight, so we can eliminate the medium of soil. – [Loren] NASA is testing
hydroponics, a method for growing that has gained popularity
among terrestrial farmers in the past few years. And also, aeroponics, as gravity, or a lack thereof, presents
its own challenges. – So, we’re growing things in kind of a modified hydroponics way right now. So, hydroponics is growing
plants without soil. And, generally on Earth this
is using a nutrient solution, a liquid solution of nutrients. And, sometimes you use a substrate like a baked clay, or a gravel, or a sand. Sometimes you can just use
water and nutrient solution. And so, we’re testing
different ways of doing this both for a surface system like Mars, where you have some gravity. And, for microgravity in space. So, without gravity you get some really interesting challenges. You get very different behavior of fluids. So, water and air have been
our biggest challenges, especially in the root
zone, watering your plants. And, when we figure that
out, that’s gonna be huge. – [Loren] Hydroponics
delivers water and nutrients to plant roots using a liquid solution. And, aeroponics takes it one step further. Instead of using a solution, plants are grown in a
misty air environment. Aside from hydroponics,
researchers are also testing what environments plants
will thrive in best by testing different
lights and temperatures. Including environments
similar to that of the ISS. – Our main goal right
now is to produce safe, nutritious, and appealing
food for the crew to supplement a packaged diet. So, they have a really good packaged diet. They have several hundred foods. And, they’re actually really tasty. They do a lot of evaluation to make sure that they’re going to be
very delicious for the crew. When we go to Mars, we need a diet that’s going to be good for five years. – Right. – And, some of the vitamins don’t last that long in the packaged food. So, we’re looking at, can we use supplemental food
production, crops, plants, to add more flavor, more texture, and more nutrients to that diet. – I couldn’t leave without
getting a taste of these plants. Time to eat. Basically we’re just
gonna cut the leaves off and put ’em in these little pots here? – That’s all we have to do. – Okay, great. – So, these are microgreens,
so we’re gonna try here, we’ve got a little bit of broccoli, a little bit of cauliflower. So, microgreens actually started life as garnishes in high-end restaurants. You’ll go to a restaurant,
there’ll be like a little marigold microgreen
on there or something, so. – Right, now it’s the meal. – It’s the meal, it’s the accent for food. – [Loren] The biggest benefit
of microgreens is that they can be harvested in a
very short amount of time. So, you don’t have to wait weeks or months before you can eat them. – [Matthew] Here’s our famous steak plant. – Amara mustard is what it’s called. – It’s also know as Ethiopian kale. – Medium rare. That weirdly does taste like steak. – It’s got that umami flavor to it. – It takes a while to kick in, yeah. Figuring out how to
grow fresh food in space is not only important
for the nutritional value it will provide, but the
psychological value it has as well. – When you’re on Mars, you’re not gonna be looking down on earth
so, I think the plants are gonna be really important
for those reasons as well. – Yeah. Like having a little taste of home almost. – Exactly. – While humans have explored
and adapted to new environments many times before, with space
we won’t be able to rely on the resources we are
accustomed to here on Earth. Growing food is going to
be incredibly difficult, and we’ll have to figure out how to be self sufficient in entirely new ways. Because this is an entirely new frontier. Hey everyone, thanks so
much for watching our video. If you want more science
content like this, be sure to check out our
Verge Science YouTube channel. I’ll see ya there.

52 thoughts on “How astronauts can get a taste of steak in space

  1. Im enjoying your space and science videos here and I think you guys do better in this field than consumer electronics. Perhaps you guys should transfer to STEM related materials. On the "Verge" of human kind advancements.

  2. Mark Watney, a botanist, already figured out how to grow things in Mars. Revolutionary, some might say.

  3. didn't Martian cover a good way of getting the goodies to grow on mars? if you tailor the food you carry with you not only for its nutritional value to the eater, but also for its waste values. then the food you are carrying will turn into what you need to grow food on mars

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