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Hove, Arthur O. (ed.) / Wisconsin alumnus
Volume 68, Number 2 (Nov. 1966)

Collins, Joan
Growing gardens in outer space,   pp. 8-9


Page 8


by Joan Collins
Growing
  Gardens
  in Outer
          Space
UW researchers explore
      new ways to make
  extended space travel
                 possible.
CAN YOU IMAGINE a rich gar-
    den of carrots, lettuce, beans
 and other vegetables growing in a
 spacecraft as it makes its journey
 to the moon?
   Dr. A. C. Hildebrandt, professor
 of plant pathology at the University
 can.
   While the astronauts of today are
 flying high in the sky, Dr. Hilde-
 brandt and his colleagues are keep-
 ing their feet firmly planted on the
 ground in their research rooms at
 the University's modern Russell
 Laboratories on the western end of
 the Madison campus.
   Prof. Hildebrandt and one of his
students, Dr. Teicchi Fukami, a
Japanese professor in the depart-
ment of agricultural chemistry at the
University of Tokyo who is doing
post-doctbral work at the University
this year, are working on ways to
prepare food for astronauts.
  The scientists are doing this im-
portant research because it has been
realized that once an astronautical
expedition leaves the earth, it im-
mediately removes itself from the
usual sources of food. There is not
room for large supplies of food in a
spacecraft so when astronauts start
making space trips that last longer
than a month, the food supply will
become quite a problem.
  With one eye on the future and
the other on the microscope, the
scientists have been studying fresh-
plant food possibilities for extended
space trips.
  In a recent American space flight,
dried food supplies took up only a
few cubic inches. However, there
may not be room for more food
when the flight duration is increased.
In addition to storage problems, con-
ventional foods do not always work
in space. Some might turn into
powder in a weightless atmosphere.
Of course, all food used in space
is tested many times on the ground
before it is put aboard.
  To alleviate storage problems in
spacecrafts, foods can be shot out on
other vehicles to astronauts and re-
treived as needed-but this be-
comes expensive.
   The Wisconsin scientists working
 on the problem have come to the
 conclusion that it would be much
 easier if the food were made im-
 mediately available to the astronaut
 in the capsule.
   Through tissue culture, a process
 of growing higher plant cells inside
 a tube, the cells would grow and
 divide while the capsule was in
 flight, thus providing the astronauts
 with a ready food supply, The green
 cells would use the resources in and
 around the capsule for the growing
 process. Carbon dioxide would come
 from the air within the capsule.
 Water would be obtained from ma-
 chines within the capsule while
 mineral content would come from
 recycled waste materials and energy
 from the sun would be unlimited.
   Already some higher plant cells
 that serve as a rich source of fresh
 fruit and vegetables can be pro-
 duced in a bottle as fast as they can
 in a field. The real challenge now is
 to exploit this basic possibility and
 learn to control the rate of growth
 and the atmosphere around     the
 growing food.
   Excellent culture growth has been
established for cells from navy bean,
red kidney bean, cucumber, grape,
endive, parsley, lettuce, pea, tomato
stem  tissue, carrot root, spinach
leaves, potato tubers, and others.
The type and amount of growth has
been influenced by the tissue strains
and cultural conditions.
  If future work progresses and
proves as successful as previous
studies, it is very possible that some-
day astronauts may grow fresh cells
and plants from peas, beans, lettuce,
and even some new varieties of
fruits and vegetables aboard their
spacecrafts. Looking ahead, the
spacemen may be able to plan their
week's menu by     adding certain
chemicals to the cells to make them
grow and become ripe, just as a
housewife looks ahead when she
does her weekly grocery shopping.
T  HESE experimentations are in
    terms of growing more food at
a faster rate with a variety of tex-
               Wisconsin Alumnus
8


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