Food for thought for employees in space


Something for the weekend…

Earlier this summer, the Employee Benefits’ team was drooling over the Michelin-starred fare that Heston Blumenthal was cooking up for British astronaut Major Tim Peake to eat on his six-month mission to the International Space Station.

Now NASA has announced that astronauts have successfully grown fresh food in a microgravity environment on board the International Space Station.

The project, named ‘Veg-01’, has produced a crop of ‘Outredgeous’ red romaine lettuce. Half of the crop will be served up with dinner in space, and the other half will be scientifically analysed on its return to Earth.

The ability to grow fresh produce in space could have a far-reaching impact on future missions, particularly NASA’s Journey to Mars project. However, it could also enhance astronauts’ wellbeing.

Recreational activities such as gardening could have a positive impact on the moods and performance of those sent on space missions, while the presence of plant life on board the astronauts’ home and workplace could also boost wellbeing.

Alexandra Whitmire, behavioural health and research scientist for NASA’s human research programme, said: “Future spaceflight missions could involve four to six crew members living in a confined space for an extended period of time, with limited communication. We recognise it will be important to provide training that will be effective and equip the crew with adequate countermeasures during their mission.”

Dr Ray Wheeler, lead for advanced life support activities at the Exploration Research and Technology Programs Office, added: “There is evidence that supports fresh foods, such as tomatoes, blueberries and red lettuce are a good source of antioxidants.

“Having fresh food like these available in space could have a positive impact on people’s moods and also could provide some protection against radiation in space.”

At Employee Benefits, we’re wondering whether the experiences of the green-fingered astronauts will encourage more employee gardening activities down here on Earth…